On the back of recent disappointing news about the quality of freshwater in NZ (revealed in the Government’s ‘Environment Aotearoa 2015′ report), fly fishermen now have to face up to the implications of the withdrawal of Fish & Game New Zealand from the most significant collaborative body responsible for driving the process of freshwater reform in this country – The Land and Water Forum.
Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson said changes to the Forum’s rules around membership and restrictions on the ability to speak out had “essentially compelled us to resign”.
“After five years its now clear the Government’s goals all along have been about natural resource development, not about environmental protection. They make the growth strategies, and add on the end the words ‘within environmental limits’.”
“This process is more superficial than substantial. For industry, it’s ideal to have all the environmental groups neatly corralled inside the tent, inside the process,” Johnson observed.
While leaving the Land and Water Forum will now allow Fish & Game to once again independently advocate for our freshwater resources, it must be a serious concern for anyone interested in water quality, that the process responsible for safeguarding our waterways could be so seriously flawed.
Of the 150 recommendations already made by the Forum over the last five years the Government still has not identified an implementation plan. In fact many have accused the Government of simply ‘cherry picking’ recommendations to suit their agenda.
Environment Minister Nick Smith responded saying he was not surprised by Fish and Games’ departure, but he was disappointed. Dr Smith said a ‘good number’ of the forum’s recommendations had been acted on.
“I don’t have the exact list in front of me… what I can say is that simplistically counting off the numbers does not give due respect to the really important recommendations around national policy statements, around the National Objectives Framework, around the funding for cleanups, around putting in place a reporting system around the quality of our freshwater, most of those have been implemented.”
So where to from here for the Forum and the quality of freshwater in New Zealand? The Government really needs to respond positively and deliver substantive practical change that results in improved water quality. It needs to fully embrace the founding principles of the Forum and deliver outcomes that satisfy the long term social, recreational and economic benefits of clean freshwater.
You can hear Fish & Game CEO Bryce Johnson speak about the withdrawal in an interview on Radio New Zealand >