The Government’s record on protecting our marine environment is lacklustre and yet another example of them failing to deliver, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Despite talking a big game in Opposition, the current Government has not established a single marine reserve. The previous National Government established 11, close to 500,000 hectares worth.
“National was also preparing to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, which would have preserved important habitats for thousands of species of fish and marine life. It appears the current Government has taken it completely off the table.
“The Government promised last May that a consultation document on establishing marine reserves on the South East Coast would be available last year, but again it has not delivered.
“They have also failed to roll out cameras across all commercial fishing boats, instead choosing to water down National’s proposal by only applying cameras to 28 of the more than 1000 vessel strong commercial fishing fleet.
“New Zealand was a world leader in 1971 when we became the first country to legislate for fully protected marine areas with the Marine Reserves Act. Unfortunately this Government is failing to live up to this precedent.
“New Zealand’s ocean environment is the fourth largest of any country and 18 times that of New Zealand’s land mass. This Government is failing to deliver on protecting it.”
The Government is dragging the chain on implementing a management plan to save our iconic Kauri trees, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“In December 2017 Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage asked the Kauri Dieback Programme to develop a National Pest Management Plan (NPMP) to stop the spread of this devastating pathogen.
“Emphasising how ‘urgent and effective action’ was needed, both Ministers at the time said this was ‘by far the strongest piece of regulation available’.
“But three years on we’re still waiting for the plan’s release and both are being evasive on where it’s currently at.
“Written questions to Minister O’Connor reveal that the Minister and his team of advisors are still shuffling papers to see whether the plan can be adequately funded.
“Meanwhile some tracks are closed and some tracks are open with timeframes for closure differing from site to site. This is alarming because forests are still at risk and the disease is still being spread.
“Kauri is the taonga of our forests and with the holiday season round the corner visitors will be wanting to experience it for themselves.
“With thousands of Kiwis set to head out and enjoy the great outdoors a management plan should have been implemented by now. Unfortunately this is yet another example of this Government failing to deliver on its promises."
Uncertainty over the future of whitebaiting as a result of Government policy is already affecting whitebaiters’ livelihoods, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“West Coast whitebaiters have invested heavily in their whitebaiting stands, which are essentially a permit to use a particular spot where a structure can be set up.
“They’re worth an average of $70,000 and can fetch up to six figures.
“Since Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage passed her Freshwater Fish Amendment Bill, the stands haven’t been selling and there are fears these assets will plummet in price.
“We’ve been told some whitebaiters have had their stands on the market for months but nobody is interested. It’s unlikely they’ll ever get back what they paid for them and will be left tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“There’s so much uncertainty within the industry. The Minister has the power to ban whitebaiting and the Department of Conservation has reportedly told people to expect changes before the 2020 election.
“The Minister included a clause in the law saying there would be a two-year grace period before a ban on whitebaiting could be implemented, but it appears she’s trying to speed up the process and implement regulations prior to the election instead.
“Considering the Minister’s well documented Green Party ideology towards recreational fishers and hunters, whitebaiters have every right to be concerned about their future.
“National opposed the bill because the Government refused to accept any of our practical amendments to stop a ban on whitebaiting and take a science and evidence-based approach to management instead.
“The Minister needs to be upfront with whitebaiters, who are disillusioned, and rule out a ban on whitebaiting.”
The Government has voted down changes that would have protected whitebaiting from being outlawed, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“National proposed a series of practical amendments that would have improved the Government’s Indigenous Freshwater Fish Amendment Bill.”
- Remove whitebait from the ban on fishing on conservation estate rivers and provide for the whitebait fishery to be sustainably managed.
- Create a consultation and right of appeal process for impacted landowners when a spawning area is declared on their property.
- Establish a science and evidence-based approach to be followed in regulating or prohibiting the take or management of specified freshwater fish.
“National asked for New Zealand First’s support on these three Supplementary Order Papers, but they toed the Government’s line and gave in to the Green Party’s decision to vote against our changes.
“Whitebaiting is a treasured pastime for many New Zealanders, it puts food on the table and also creates livelihoods.
“With the status of the fishery difficult to ascertain, a blanket ban is not good policy. That’s why National supports the whitebaiting community and will continue to push for an evidence-based approach to conservation.
“National presented the Government with a chance to do the right thing by this country’s whitebaiters, but it failed to seize the opportunity.”
My Members Bill proposing practical regulations on shark cage diving has taken on greater relevance following the Supreme Court’s ruling that shark cage diving off Stewart Island is not an offence, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill was drawn from the ballot in September 2018 and would ensure both people and sharks’ safety should it become law.
“The Bill provides conditions for granting permits relating to the geographical area within which the commercial shark cage diving operation may operate, as well as minimum distances of operation from specified locations among other conditions.
“It also regulates the activities of commercial shark cage diving in a way that would alleviate the safety concerns of those using the water for work or recreation.
“Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has previously not supported my Bill, but I hope she can change her mind and support these practical changes in light of the Supreme Court decision.
“She is also yet to explain why she didn’t appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgement that has now been overturned by the Supreme Court. Months have passed since this decision and she chose to completely remove herself from all responsibility, despite being the Minister in charge.
“With the Bill up soon for first reading, I hope the Minister takes the Supreme Court decision into consideration and changes her mind to supporting this practical legislation.”
The Minister of Conservation’s refusal to consult on legislation is causing problems once again, with Iwi concerned about the impact of her Bill that could potentially ban whitebaiting, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“Whitebaiters from Ngāi Tahu have recently come out and said that they are disappointed with the lack of clarity surrounding the Bill’s consequences. They are also fearful about where this leaves their customary fishing rights.
“Following a 2018 Supreme Court decision on Section 4 of the Conservation Act, which examined the way DOC considered Treaty principles, you’d think the Minister would have consultation with Iwi as a priority.
“While some parts of the country have challenges and discussions need to happen about how to manage their stock’s sustainability, it’s clear a blanket rule is not good policy and will simply create more issues.
“New Zealand’s biggest whitebait fishery on the West Coast opened this week, and research shows the country’s only commercial fishery to be in good health.
“National takes a practical approach to conservation and believes policy should be based on science, not ideology. Minister Sage needs to meaningfully engage with people on the ground and stop being blinded by her ideological views.”
The popular Kiwi pastime of whitebaiting is at risk of being banned if the Minister of Conservation gets her way, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“National will oppose the second reading of the Indigenous Freshwater Fish Amendment Bill, as it will ultimately result in the prohibition of whitebaiting in New Zealand.
“The Bill’s transitional clauses mean that after a year, whitebaiting will be prohibited unless there is specific authorisation to do otherwise.
“Eugenie Sage’s ideological views are not friendly towards recreational fishers and hunters. The whitebaiting community has also told me they feel as though her whitebait consultation process has been a farce and they are concerned about their future livelihoods and the future of the Kiwi pastime. If Ms Sage has her way, whitebaiting will be prohibited.
“Whitebaiting is a Kiwi tradition for many New Zealanders, it puts food on the table, creates livelihoods and is a recreational pastime. The whitebaiting community have already subscribed to voluntary protections of the fishery to assist its sustainability and deserve to have their say on these regulations.
“To stand up for the whitebaiting community I encourage you to sign my petition to save whitebaiting in New Zealand.”
Sarah Dowie’s petition to save whitebaiting in New Zealand can be found here: https://sarahdowie.national.org.nz/stop_the_whitebaiting_ban
The Government’s decision to strip the Southern Institute of Technology of assets and send all power to a centralised polytechnic in Wellington is devastating for our community, MP for Invercargill Sarah Dowie says.
“The Government’s announcement today will cost thousands of jobs across the country and may be the final whistle for polytechnics like the well-performing Southern Institute of Technology (SIT).
“This is disastrous for Southland.
“Southland employers have told me they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics. This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices.
“SIT is in touch with local business needs in the community and are training the skilled and semi-skilled as apprentices, helping them grow, succeed and gain meaningful employment.
“The Government has brutally dismissed the concerns of industry and businesses who raised serious issues with polytechnic training. Southland institutions and businesses are best placed to assess and deliver for the needs of Southlanders, but Education Minister Chris Hipkins is blatantly ignoring them.
“The Government can’t even get the name of SIT right, calling it the ‘Southland Institute of Technology’, showing just how disrespectful and uninterested the Government is in education in our region.
“The Government’s reforms will dissolve SIT into a hollow and meaningless ‘legacy’ campus. It is pulling down a successful, high-performing institution and creating a mediocre model which will reduce our competitiveness as a region.
“National supports regional education and regional autonomy. We will return polytechnic assets and decision making back to communities and the region. And we will return apprentices to industry.
“National will fight for Southland’s voice and autonomy in these idealistic education reforms.”
One of New Zealand’s most prestigious conservation and environment awards ceremonies is not going ahead for the second time in as many years because the Government can’t get their act together to fund it, National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.
“The Green Ribbon Awards were first held in 1980 and have long played an important role in celebrating the outstanding contributions by individuals, communities and organisations to protect and manage New Zealand’s environment. National recognised their value and strengthened the awards in 2015.
“In 2017 Environment Minister David Parker, and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, oversaw a change of format—one that had worked successfully for more than 25 years. Since then the Ministry for the Environment website tells visitors ‘We're taking a break to make Green Ribbon Awards even better’.
“Two years later and there is little progress to speak of. Mr Parker’s response to Written Questions shows both departments are in fact mulling over whether they can fund it within current budget priorities.
“Communities and volunteers are at the heart of conservation in this country. National believes it’s important to celebrate those who are excelling, and give them something to aspire to. This is a real shame.”
Labour’s tertiary education reforms will be wider than first thought and will strip the Southern Institute of Technology of power and assets, MP for Invercargill Sarah Dowie says.
“National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines this information, the Government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday.
“The Government is intending on renaming regional polytechnics as subsidiaries of a newly formed statutory entity called New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST). A National Government will undo some of the most damaging ideological changes proposed.
“The Government’s ‘we know best’ attitude will see Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) and polytechs dissolved over two years. The organising of apprentices will be taken from industry, who know the needs of our region best, and instead given to one polytech.
“They will have their cash assets and community legacy assets ring fenced at head office, all other assets will be taken away and consolidated. Current boards will be sacked on day one, including local members and will be replaced by a subsidiary board, and regional leadership groups will be advisory only.
“This is disastrous for Southland and for our well performing Southern Institute of Technology (SIT). SIT is in touch with local business needs in the community and are training the skilled and semi-skilled as apprentices, helping them grow, succeed and gain meaningful employment.
“Southland institutions and businesses are best placed to assess and deliver for the needs of Southlanders. They don’t need to be told what to do by a Government that thinks it knows best, intent on removing this knowledge from our region.
“The Labour-led Government has said it is committed to the regions. But they are destroying a polytechnic which is integral to our community. These reforms are punishing our regions and are punishing well performing institutions like SIT. Wellington shouldn’t be telling Southland what to do.
“National will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to the community. We will return polytechnic decision making to communities and the regions. We will return apprentices to industry. Education Minister Chris Hipkins should be addressing the problems where they are and leaving successful institutions like SIT alone.
“We will fight these reforms every step of the way, we know how important SIT is to Southland and Southlanders, and we know our region knows what is best for our community’s needs. National will overturn some of the Government’s most damaging ideological polytech reforms.”