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Forestry, fisheries and agriculture get own ministries

Opinion Piece

As the new Labour-led Government launches into a hectic “first 100 days” programme there will be a lot of interest here in one of its early decisions — the dismantling of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

New Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern obviously does not intend to sit on her hands and is getting straight on with policy implementation, especially those related to education.

She has even said the first 100 days could include a mini budget, a sign she means to put that election motto “Let’s Do This” into concrete action. More details of the 100-day plan are due this week.

The decision to dismantle MPI shows Labour was thinking ahead when it formulated its pre-election policy. The former ministry will be split into three parts — forestry, fishing and agriculture.

That should be welcomed in the forestry and farming sectors, where many felt MPI was cumbersome, but the real delight could come from recreational fishers.

Spokesman for the recreational fishing advocacy group LegaSea, Scott Macindoe, said fisheries had never sat well with farming and forestry since the formation of MPI in 2012. Macindoe, who represents 34,000 fishing club members including the strong Gisborne Tatapouri club, wants to see tougher limits for commercial operators.

He even singled out Area 2, which extends from East Cape all the way down to Wellington, in his statement — saying trawlers were going up and down the beach and on the rocks just “clear felling” the entire area, which he describes as a basket case.

A major issue locally for many years has been crayfish stocks and the concession allowing commercial fishers to take 52mm wide tails during the autumn/winter season when prices are high, while the recreational fishers’ limit is 54mm.

Some recreational fishers believe the coast has been hammered by the commercial industry and say it is too difficult to get a feed of legal crays. They will want this to be a high priority for the reformed ministry.