July marks the beginning of the new Taupo fishing season so I’ve just purchased a licence using the Department of Conservation’s online service. It’s was simple enough to do, but to be honest I rather miss the ritual of stopping off at a local fishing store. It always formed part of the build up to the serious winter fishing and presented an opportunity for a good yarn.
The online service is certainly efficient, but the problem is it’s the only game in town – there are no alternatives. The Department of Conservation no longer supports local licence agents such as tackle stores and this can result in some frustration for both anglers and store owners alike – at least until new habits develop.
One big positive is the price. The cost for a licence this season remains unchanged at $90 per year. DOC has also created other pricing options to cater for those with specific requirements, such as fishing for shorter periods. So when you think of the quality and diversity of fishing on offer in the Taupo region, the licence cost is very reasonable.
Technology has provided us with the facility to get a licence from any computer or smart device at any time of day or night, using just a credit card. Quite useful actually. I’ll simply have to get used to a new digitally enhanced ritual – topping up my trout flies will still give me the perfect excuse to pop into a local tackle store to chat about fishing prospects. Not so bad really.
Scientists have provided evidence supporting what many anglers have known for years – taking water from rivers has a negative impact on fish quality. The new knowledge, based on 15 years of research led by the Cawthron Institute, has global implications for irrigation and hydro-electric development, and recreational fishing.
Project leader and Cawthron Institute freshwater fisheries scientist Dr John Hayes says a river acts like a conveyor belt delivering drifting food to waiting fish. “We’ve shown that as flow declines, the diminished power and transport capacity of a river results in less drifting food. A new computer model that our team developed predicts that this translates to fewer, or more slowly growing, fish.”
Dr Hays says the insights from the model are a caution to regional councils and the public to be more careful when allocating water – in New Zealand, regional councils may need to revise minimum flows upward and water allocation limits downward.
Fish & Game’s Chief Executive Bryce Jonson says Cawthron are to be applauded for producing such sound, world-leading scientific research. Mr Johnson says the government needs to heed the research findings and bring in stronger water management rules and reconsider its support for intensive farming and irrigation. “At the moment, the government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into irrigation as a subsidy for intensive farming and ignoring the impact this is having on the environment and fish, including native species.”
“It is ludicrous that irrigators now want to take water from rivers and use it to replenish aquifers that have been over exploited. All this has a huge impact on the environment,” says Johnson.
“This report should be a wake-up call for the government. It has huge implications for tourism, farming and hydro-electric development and greater recognition needs to be given to freshwater fisheries,” Johnson concluded.
Neil Deans, technical policy adviser to the Minister for the Environment, says up-to-date technical information is vital for policy development, and such research can help inform water resource management.
“The quality of Dr Hayes’ and his collaborators’ research is internationally recognised, If we are going to set limits, then they should be effective in meeting community aspirations and as up-to-date as they can be.”
“This has implications for both environmental protection and for the allocation of water and its quality,” said Deans.
Farming organisations, self-interest irrigation lobbyists, plus the Minister of Primary Industries are being irresponsible towards the crisis of New Zealand’s depleted and degraded rivers and streams says a national trout fishing advocacy.
President of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers David Haynes was reacting to a call by Irrigation NZ’s CEO Andrew Curtis over the experimental Hinds/Hekeao Managed Aquifer Recharge project that would deplete the Rangitata River. He also referred to another call by Hawkes Bay Federated Farmers president Will Foley over the controversial Hawkes Bay Ruataniwha scheme for the Tukituki River in which Foley commented that since 196 unidentified farmers had signed up to the currently unapproved scheme, that it was financially viable and must immediately proceed.
“The Hawkes Bay Federated Farmers call ignores that the only people so far identified as contributing to the dam’s costs are the public, i.e. taxpayers and ratepayers.”
David Haynes said the contribution the public would make was tantamount to a giant subsidy for private profit while the public’s river, already under severe environmental stress, would be sacrificed. Federated Farmers claim that the Tukituki catchment area would “enjoy improved environmental outcomes” was that of a “cock-eyed optimist” contradicting all known science about the impact of dams.
David Haynes also singled out the Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy who said it was time the public stopped blaming agriculture for the degraded state of rivers. “Why would the public illogically do that when it’s well documented that intensive agriculture is a major cause of degradation of the public’s waterways?”
He said it was time for government ministers to realise they were fundamentally public servants meant to be serving the general public interest of not only today’s generation but future generations. “How will Messrs Curtis, Foley and Guy explain to their children and grandchildren that they were party to the degradation of rivers that now were unswimmable?”
All New Zealanders, town and country, from politicians to farmers needed to take collective responsibility to have a “land and water ethic” to restore waterways. Many farmers were responsible and practised a sense of stewardship but a significant number failed to do so. Horizons Regional Council, covering southern Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Rangitikei and other rural areas recently revealed that of 482 farms with Sustainable Land Use Plans, exactly half had done nothing to fulfil obligations or had made less than 20 percent of planned progress. The plans, designed to limit the effects of large-scale hill erosion and prevent silt run-off and deposition in rivers, were free to farmers, but cost council ratepayers between $12,0009and $18,000 each to conduct but were voluntary.
David Haynes said the abdication of environmental responsibility by Federated Farmers was graphically illustrated by national Federated Farmers president William Rolleston who claimed on National Radio “we do actually have very clean rivers in New Zealand – there is no doubt.”
“Rolleston’s bizarre claim flew in the face of concerns by the Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment and all the published studies by independent scientists. It’s apparent the deep concerns held by the public over degraded rivers, fails to even rate as an issue for NZ’s agribusiness spokesmen.”
David Haynes said the science underpinning the truly degraded state of the public’s waterways had been very clear for a long time, pin-pointing that agricultural intensification particularly monocultures of mega-sized corporate dairy farms, was usually the major cause.
A ground-breaking report just published by the respected Cawthron Institute and NIWA proved conclusively that the over-allocation of water extracted for intensive agriculture, was directly affecting the ecosystem of public rivers, including vital macro-invertebrate populations that were food sources for native fish and the public’s trout and salmon stocks.
“Denials about the deplorable state of many rivers both in quantity of flow and quality, by agri-business representatives is frustrating since it’s selfish, self-serving and short-sighted.”
David Haynes said fish health was tantamount to the “canary in the coal mine. “Not only are many lowland rivers rated as unfit for swimming but once favoured swimming and fishing rivers, were dry riverbeds, mute testimony to the degradation and at times total destruction. Anglers know because they’re out there, seeing diminished fish size and numbers, and essentially acting as environmental watchdogs for the public” he said.
Source – Scoop Media
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