NZ First and fishing boat camera delays

Newshub has agitated Winston Peters with their reporting of ongoing delays at fitting cameras on fishing boats to monitor catches and protection of protected bird and sea mammal species.

Peters has been connected with fishing company interests for years, Shane Jones is former chair of both Te Ohu Kaimoana and Sealord, and fishing companies have donated to NZ First and to the NZ First trust (and also to national and Labour candidates).

The installation of cameras on fishing boats seems to have been contentious. National planned to require it when they were in Government, and the Green Party, Greenpeace and NZ Forest and Bird strongly supports it.

RNZ (February 2018): Govt considering ditching fishing boat camera plans

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said many in the fishing industry were unhappy with the camera proposal and all options were on the table – including dumping it entirely.

One of Mr Nash’s first moves when he became the Fisheries Minister was to put the brakes on the rollout of electronic monitoring of the commercial fishing fleet.

The former National government came up with the plan last year, saying it would protect the sustainability of fish stocks and act as a deterrent against illegal activity, like fish dumping.

But Mr Nash said National forced it upon the sector, and he was getting advice from officials on what should be done.

“There are certainly concerns in the industry that there hasn’t been a proper process followed and a complete and utter lack of consultation.

“That does seem to be the prevailing attitude but we haven’t made any final decision on that,” he said.

Mr Nash said ditching the programme entirely was one of the options being considered.

“We could continue the project as it is, we could delay it – at the extreme we could dump it.”

National Party fisheries spokesman Gerry Brownlee said the rollout of cameras was needed to deal with well-publicised problems in the sector.

“Our step to put cameras on board was not rejected by the industry, it was the speed with which they were required to comply and they felt they needed more time,” he said.

Mr Brownlee said to move away from cameras would be ignoring problems, such as commercial fisheries catching non-quota species, as well as seabirds and sea mammals.

Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the fishing industry could not be trusted and cameras on boats was the only way to keep it honest.

Seafood New Zealand chief executive Tim Pankhurst said Forest and Bird had an anti-commercial fishing agenda, and that the camera proposal was simplistic, unreasonably costly and inadequate.

Stuff (January 2019): Cameras on fishing boats delayed, angering Greens and Greenpeace

The Government has again delayed the rollout of mandatory cameras on fishing boats.

The change to the regulation was “gazetted” on Wednesday and gives companies until August 2019 to get their boats ready.

This follows another delay caused as the policy, supported by the previous Government, made its way through Cabinet.

Both the Green Party and Greenpeace have expressed disappointment at the delay.

“We don’t agree with this delay which is putting our fisheries and natural environment at risk”, Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

Despite being a part of the Government, the Greens are free to disagree with it on issues its MPs have no ministerial discretion over.

Former Green Party co-leader and Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman was also angered by the delay.

“There was a disturbing level of malpractice exposed by the original trials of the cameras back in 2012,” Norman said.

Norman alleged NZ First MP and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones was behind the move. NZ First have interfered in several other fishing policy decisions in recent months, and Jones received thousands of dollars in donations from fishing companies.

“If Shane Jones is now the de facto Minister of Fishing and has a policy agenda to help fishing companies destroy the environment, then the Government should just come clean about it rather than quietly delaying any action to protect our oceans,” Norman said.

Jones vigorously defended himself against Norman, saying the Greenpeace leader had left politics so should stay out of it.

Newsroom last month (June 2020): Why the delay to get cameras on boats?

The deadline for having cameras installed on commercial fishing boats was pushed back again last week with technology being pegged as one reason for the delay.

Newsroom’s enquiries have not been able to establish the nature of those technology issues, finding only that a step to define which technology solutions are required hasn’t yet happened.

Since cameras on boats were first proposed by the National-led government following concern over illegal fish-dumping, the rollout date has shifted several times from the original date of October 2018.

A new date of October 2021 added to legislation last week is not a firm line in the sand. Nash said it’s a holding date, “not a planned date for either beginning or completing any implementation”.

Stuff reported Nash raised cost as an issue last week as well as technical complications saying: “The technology at this point is just not available to allow us to equip the whole fleet with cameras.”

However, enquiries to Fisheries NZ reveal there’s a process step required before technical decisions are made and costs are known.

Asked what the technical issues causing the delay were, Fisheries NZ’s deputy director-general Dan Bolger said a public consultation would be needed.

Public consultation will take time, but it’s not clear why it is needed at this stage.

The delays have frustrated conservationists. Greenpeace’s ocean campaigner Jessica Desmond said the ongoing stalling wasn’t good enough.

“There’s been a long pattern of delaying this legislation implementation. There’s been OIAs showing the industry oppose this legislation, there’s been all kinds of excuses about money and technicalities.”

Fishing industry opposition was made clear in a letter sent in 2018 to Nash signed by Sealord, Talley’s, New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen and Te Ohu Kai Moana:

“The purpose of this letter is to dismiss any suggestion that the New Zealand seafood industry supports the current proposal, is in any way split in its opposition to it or that our industry has anything less than overwhelming opposition to your Ministry’s current proposal for cameras.”

New Zealand First’s Shane Jones denied being involved with the delay despite his past ties to the fishing industry as a former chair of both Te Ohu Kaimoana and Sealord, pro-industry stance, and history of receiving donations from Talley’s.

The NZ First Foundation received $26,950 from Talley’s and managing director Sir Peter Talley between 2017 and 2019. In 2017, Talley’s donated $10,000 to Jones.

The company also made a donation of $2000 to one other NZ First candidate, and donations of $5000 to seven National candidates and one Labour candidate in 2017.

Timeline:

2012 to 2013 – Video-monitoring pilot programme shows some monitored boats illegally discarding unwanted fish.

May 2016 – A report by an MPI investigator is leaked which called for prosecutions to be pursued. MPI announces an inquiry by former Solicitor General into the lack of prosecutions.

May 2017 – $30.5 million boost to fisheries management announced by then-Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy. It includes funding for GPS monitoring, electronic logbooks and was to be “followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from 1 October next year”.

November 2017 – Minister Stuart Nash postpones cameras on fishing boats saying: “I am working with MPI officials on options for timing and these will be communicated once a decision has been made.”

July 2018 – Letter from fishing companies sent to Nash saying the companies do not support cameras on boats.

January 2019 – Rollout of cameras delayed until August.

June 2019 – $17.1 million announced in Budget for cameras on boats fishing in Māui dolphin habitat by November 2019.

June 2020 – Rollout delayed to a “holding date” of October 2021.

On Tuesday: Winston Peters launches attack on Newshub journalist Michael Morrah ahead of fishing boat camera investigative report

On Tuesday’s Newshub Live at 6pm, Newshub Investigations Reporter Michael Morrah will reveal the politics behind delays in introducing cameras on fishing boats – and who’s responsible.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has released a statement before it goes it air, defending his party’s actions.

Peters is calling it “the worst form of unethical tabloid journalism”.

“What is appalling is how clickbait journalism is affecting the public’s right to be informed accurately about government policy,” he said.

“Newshub’s ‘shock horror’ special investigation will be as shallow as the motives behind its creation, and highlight once again some in the New Zealand’s media’s inability to understand how coalitions work.”

Morrah has covered the fishing industry for a decade and stands by his reporting.

“The public can make their own mind up tonight on Newshub Live at 6pm about whether this is clickbait journalism as Peters has claimed,” he says.

“I strongly reject any such suggestion, and I believe this story is in the public interest.”

The news item on Tuesday evening: Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash blames pressure from NZ First for delay in fishing boat cameras in recording

Newshub has obtained an explosive audio recording of Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash talking about NZ First MPs Winston Peters and Shane Jones.

The recording was from February 2018, around the time the Government first delayed the rollout of cameras on nearly 1000 fishing boats – since then it’s been delayed again until at least October next year.

In it, Nash points the finger of blame squarely at them for delaying plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats to make sure they don’t break the law.

“New Zealand First has not been the cause of delays on cameras,” Nash has claimed on Tuesday.

But in February 2018, a few months after he took office, the explanation was remarkably different according to this secret recording obtained by Newshub.

“I’ve got to play the political game in a way that allows me to make these changes. Now, Winston Peters and Shane Jones have made it very clear they do not want cameras on boats,” Nash can be heard saying in a recording.

Nash then went on to say a public review of the fisheries management is needed to get the cameras rolled out.

“If Winston wants to have that discussion with Jacinda, it is had in the public arena and it is almost impossible for him to win it,” he said.

“But if he has it behind closed doors on the 9th floor now, then the public will never know about it. So what I am trying to do is put Winston and Shane into a position where they cannot back down.”

“By revoking these regulations, first of all people like Winston and the industry will go, ‘oh there, there you go. That’s fantastic, that’s been done. We don’t have to worry about this’,” he said in the recording.

“Little do they know behind the scenes the tidal wave on this is coming and they won’t be able to avoid it.”

But that tidal wave never came, nor did the planned fisheries review nor cameras on all boats.

On Tuesday, Nash said his comments were a mistake and that he ‘misread’ NZ First’s position.

“I just got it wrong. I was a new Minister. I was coming to grips with the portfolio. I got it wrong,” he told Newshub.

NZ First MPs are adamant they haven’t delayed things, with Jones blaming the pandemic.

“I’m not the Fisheries Minister, but I suspect that COVID has got a lot to do with it,” Regional Development Minister Shane Jones told Newshub.

“Cameras on fishing boats is really interesting. We haven’t blocked cameras on fishing boats,” NZ First MP Tracey Martin told Newshub Nation.

Although in an interview with Newshub less than two weeks ago, party leader Winston Peters eventually acknowledged NZ First was involved in the delay.

“Do we listen to industry representation, yes. Are we concerned about families and their economic representation? Yes. Are we the cause of that delay? Well, we are part of the representation that has ended up with a more rational and sane policy, yes” he said. Asked whether that was a yes to the original question, Peters responded: “yes”.

Talley’s Andrew Talley told Newshub “within the right framework cameras have a place in modern fisheries management”.

He says there’s “no connection” with donations and the camera delays.

When questioned if NZ First had delayed the cameras because he got financial backing from the fishing industry, Peters called it an “insulting question”.

“Stop making your vile, defamatory allegations by way of an accusatory question,” he told Newshub. “This conversation is over.”

Peters can get tetchy when under pressure.

Newshub followed up yesterday:  Talleys hosted fundraiser dinners for NZ First, but denies that’s behind delay in fishing boat cameras

Members of fishing family Talleys organised two fundraising dinners at hotels for New Zealand First, Newshub can reveal – another link between the party and the fishing industry.

Newshub can reveal Talleys Fishing directors hosted two fundraising dinners for NZ First – one last year at a Christchurch hotel.

There’s nothing illegal or wrong about hosting fundraisers. The MC was former RNZ board chair Richard Griffin. He confirmed to Newshub that he’d MCed two fundraiser meetings for NZ First, and that Winston Peters, Shane Jones and Clayton Mitchell were there.

Asked about the fundraisers, Peters said “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.”

Even after Newshub briefed his office, he still refused to talk about it, saying “I don’t know what on earth you’re asking these questions for”.

After contentious donation issues in 2008 Peters lost his Tauranga seat and NZ First failed to make the 5% threshold, dumping them out of Parliament.

Stuff: Stuart Nash apologises to Winston Peters and Shane Jones over fisheries comments

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash made a “heartfelt” apology to Winston Peters and Shane Jones for remarks made in a private phone call, which aired on television last night.

Nash said today that the conversation was had two and a half years ago, and he couldn’t remember who was on the other end of the call.

He said he’d apologised to Peters and Jones about the call.

“I’ve apologised to Winston and to Shane and said I got it wrong,” Nash said. “I think they took it well because it was heartfelt,” he said.

Nash said at the time that while the technology had been rolled on 20 boats on the West Coast, it was not yet ready for wider distribution.

If it works on some boats why shouldn’t it be able to work on others?

Cameras are already used successfully on some fishing boats, so the technology seems fine. Fisheries New Zealand:  On-board cameras for commercial fishing vessels

On-board cameras give us independent information about what goes on at sea. They help verify catch reporting, and monitor fishing activity by commercial fishers, to encourage compliance with the rules.

Overseas experience shows that placing cameras on commercial fishing vessels greatly improves the quality of fisher-reported data.

For example, reports of interactions with seabirds and mammals increased 7 times when electronic monitoring was introduced to Australia’s longline fisheries in 2015. Overall reported catch remained the same.

Camera technologies have been used around the world on commercial fishing vessels for decades, and we have learnt a lot from fisheries overseas which are already using these systems.

New Zealand regulations for on-board cameras on commercial fishing vessels came into effect in 2018.

Since then, we’ve been developing the systems and processes to support this, and have now put cameras on some fishing vessels. The regulations applied to these vessels from 1 November 2019 in a defined fishing area on the west coast of the North Island.

Currently, a holding date of 1 October 2021 has been set before the on-board camera regulations apply to other commercial fishing vessels.

So technology does not appear to be an issue.  It looks more like a political problem. Putting things on hold until next year sounds like waiting and hoping for a different mix of parties in Government.

 

 

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  2nd July 2020

    I firmly believe that what Nash stated in 2018 was the unvarnished truth.
    His groveling apology to Peters and Jones because he told the truth in 2018 is beyond contempt.

    Reply
  2. NOEL

     /  2nd July 2020
    Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  2nd July 2020

    Add
    By the time the dolphin appears to the camera lens it is dead,

    Reply
  4. How expensive are the cameras ? They will be more expensive than the ones on cars, as they need to be 100% waterproof and stand up to all sorts of weather, of course.

    Reply

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