Sir Geoffrey Palmer caught in middle of row over iwi rights

: Sir Geoffrey Palmer
 

Already offside with the hunting and fishing lobby over proposals to cull South Island Thar, the Government is now defending its proposals  to make changes to the way freshwater fisheries are regulated.

This is the focus of a campaign being run by Fish and Game whose members have been advised to send emails to MPs in the coalition saying they will not get their vote if they proceed with the changes.

What makes the campaign particularly politically sensitive is that Fish and Game are objecting to provisions in the legislation which would allow Treaty settlements to over-ride freshwater fishing rights established for the general population.

And to further complicate the situation, Fish and Game have called in former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer to give them legal advice on their campaign.

But the Government is fighting back and has provided POLITIK with documentation from DoC which directly challenges the\a legal opinion provided to Fish and Game from Sir Geoffrey. Palmer.

Sir Geoffrey, in a legal opinion commissioned by Fish and Game, found that the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill could allow the sale of “sports fish”.

That would seem to pave the way for the establishment of trout farms --- something anglers have vehemently opposed for years.

Sir Geoffrey’s opinion is based on a proposal that would exempt “ a person who is authorised under Treaty settlement legislation from the restrictions on taking, possessing or selling fish.”

“This allows the Crown and iwi to agree to set aside the ordinary rules of (the existing legislation) as part of a Treaty settlement,” he said.

“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,” it says. 

But in another section, of questions and answers, it says: “Does the Bill allow Treaty settlements to override important elements of the sports fisheries management regime? 

“New legislation can always override older law. 

“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. “ 

But Sir Geoffrey believes that the proposed legislation allows the possibility that a Treaty settlement could override existing trout fishing regulations.

From the Cabinet paper and other background material there appears to be no intention to use the new provision in clause 6 to specifically override these provisions,” he says. 

“ But even if this is not intended clause 6 creates the legal possibility that this could occur.

 “It opens up the potential for direct conflict between Treaty settlement legislation and the sports fisheries regime.” 

Fish and Game are running a campaign against the legislation and they have put a guide for their members on their website on how to write a letter or email to MPs opposing the Bill. 

It is important to show to MPs that you are a voter, an angler and that you are firmly opposed to the Amendment Bill’s threat to trout and your recreational enjoyment. 

“Tell them how you got started in fishing, the generations of your family who have fished and that you are teaching the next generation the skills handed to you," it says.

“Say how fishing allows you to put food on your family’s table.”

It says writers should say whether they are a member of Labour, NZ First or the Greens

“ and say that you are unhappy with the way the Amendment Bill threatens trout, your angling and undermines Fish & Game.

“If you voted for Labour, NZ First or the Greens, tell the leaders you have supported them in the past but warn they can’t count on your vote if the Amendment Bill goes through as it presently stands.”

The hunting and angling community has shown with their campaign over the last few weeks against the proposal to substantially cull Thar in the South Island that they can assemble a large amount of support very quickly.

It is likely also that NZ First may support Fish and Game over the fishing legislation.

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