Why do these amendments to the Conservation Act?
The Conservation Act contains the main tools for managing indigenous freshwater fish. But the provisions are old, many of the existing provisions need improvements, and some key provisions are missing. New Zealand needs a modern, complete toolbox for fisheries management.
What are the gaps in the legislation that the Bill is fixing?
The key gap is in the ability to make regulations to address some of the threats to indigenous fish. For example, there are regulations that were made in 1983 relating to noxious fish and protecting threatened fish, but no regulation-making power to allow them to reviewed. And the Minister has no ability to make regulations to enforce industry best practice for things that can cause fish kills if done badly, like cleaning out stormwater drains.
What regulations will be made or changed using the amended Act?
That has yet to be decided. DOC will be doing iwi engagement and public consultation to determine what fisheries management issues need to be better managed, and whether improved regulations are needed to allow that to happen. Work done so far has identified potential improvements to existing regulations in relation to fish passage barriers, noxious fish, and the controls on take of fish. New rules to provide greater certainty about when an activity is affected by the protection of spawning sites in the existing Act have also been identified as desirable.
Why does the Bill protect fish in conservation areas?
All other indigenous animals and plants are protected within protected areas. No-one can pick the flowers, collect mushrooms for supper, or kill birds. Native fish are just as precious as other native species, and deserve the same level of protection in our protected areas. They are already protected in reserves and national parks, but not in places like Waipoua sanctuary or conservation parks.
Why will there still only be full protection for an extinct fish, even after the Bill is passed?
The Bill does not seek to make major changes in how fisheries are managed or current fishing activities. Where changes are needed, those will be made through regulations after full consultation. The Bill includes a clear regulation-making power to ensure that critically endangered fish, like some of the very rare fish in Otago streams, can be completely protected in the same way that the grayling is, if that is what comes out of the consultation process.
How will this affect implementation of the new guidelines on fish passage?
There are old regulations controlling fish passage barriers. The changes in the Bill will allow these to be reviewed, to ensure that new fish passage barriers can be avoided, and old ones reduced or removed over time.
Why does the Bill reduce controls on damage to fish spawning sites?
The current Act makes disturbance to fish spawning sites an offence, but doesn’t allow damage to be authorised. Here are two situations where it may make sense to allow damage to spawning sites:
- One is where the damage occurs outside the spawning season, and the site will have recovered by the time the fish need to lay eggs.
- The other is where a small proportion of the sites available for spawning need to be altered for essential infrastructure, such as bridges, and that effect can be mitigated by improving spawning conditions at other sites.
It is also important to be able to make regulations to clarify where spawning sites are, and what activities can damage spawning sites, to provide more certainty to people undertaking activities that might breach the Act.
Does the Bill deal with drainage pumps that mince fish?
The Bill doesn’t directly deal with that problem, but it does make it possible for a regulation to require the use of pumps that reduce or avoid fish kills. DOC is already working with the industry to identify ways to allow flood drainage to happen without killing fish.
Why does the Bill give preference for iwi-imposed controls on fishing, instead of the existing controls?
Controls on fishing made under Treaty settlement legislation will be site specific, and the outcome of a long process to agree to the Treaty settlement legislation, and to determine what controls should be put in place under that legislation. So there is no problem with them being the controls that have most effect in the place they were designed for. That is the normal way in which new, specific legislative controls apply. The Bill also recognises that specific regulations under the Fisheries Act would take precedence over general controls in the Conservation Act.
The Bill does not provide for new Treaty settlement arrangements, and whether settlements will affect indigenous or sports fish is a matter for Parliament to determine.
Why are there controls under both the Fisheries Act and the Conservation Act, and why doesn’t the Bill fix that problem?
Fisheries management law has developed over many decades, and both MPI and DOC have important roles in fisheries management. The Bill slightly adjusts the relationship between the two regimes, but doesn’t attempt to make a complete overhaul of the arrangements, as that would be highly disruptive and risk unintended effects.
Why was there no prior consultation with Fish & Game?
The Bill is a technical indigenous freshwater fisheries bill. There was no prior consultation with any potentially interested group, due to the timeframes available for preparing the Bill. The Bill was not intended to have any material effects on the sports fisheries regime, so the councils were not identified as needing specific involvement. There will be consultation through the select committee process for all interested parties, and any necessary alterations to the Bill made then.
Does the Bill give priority to DOC’s freshwater fisheries management plans over Fish & Game plans?
It does not give DOC’s freshwater fisheries management plans priority as they already have priority. It simply clarifies that if there is a conflict, Fish & Game does not need to rewrite their plan to remove the conflict. Far from being a provision intended to negatively affect fish and game management, it was intended to remove an existing potential risk for that regime.
Does the Bill allow DOC to remove trout and salmon?
The Bill makes no difference to the ability of DOC to remove trout and salmon. To the extent that DOC already has that ability, that will continue. DOC has only done so in the past with Fish & Game agreement, in very specific circumstances. DOC is focused on minimising the interactions between trout and native fish through habitat improvements rather than reducing trout populations.
Does the Bill reduce Fish & Game’s right to be consulted as managers of sports fish?
Some old regulations relating to the movement of aquatic life between waterbodies are being revoked. They included some rights for fish and game councils, but those regulations were not being implemented as they had been superseded by a provision in the Act. The regulations posed a legal risk for a process that is essential to protect trout fisheries from fish movements.
Does the Bill open up the possibility for the sale of trout?
The Bill does not open up the possibility for sale of trout. This concern seems to have arisen as a misunderstanding of the fact that the Bill clarifies the relationship between new Treaty settlement legislation and Conservation Act provisions. If a new Treaty settlement act allowed sale of trout, that could occur. But no legislation can prevent Parliament passing new legislation, so the Bill does not make that possibility more or less likely to eventuate. No Treaty settlements to date have had negative effects on sports fishery management.
Does the Bill allow Treaty settlements to override important elements of the sport fisheries management regime?
New legislation can always override older legislation. The Bill does not make it more or less likely that a Treaty settlement process will alter sports fisheries regimes. It simply clarifies how the various bits of fisheries legislation fit together.
Why doesn’t the Bill include new provisions to ensure Fish & Game are always consulted about anything that might affect them?
The Bill was not intended to make major changes to the overall fisheries regime. So no changes have been made to require new consultation arrangements in relation to any of the existing provisions in the Act. Equally, no changes were made to alter the degree to which sports fish management can impact indigenous fish management. Any major changes in the way the two regimes interact would only be done after full consultation.