Out­door is­sues ig­nored

Nelson Mail - - COMMENT&OPINION - ZANE MIRFIN

Wild side It’s gen­eral elec­tion time and politi­cians are sup­posed to be fair game.

Ac­tu­ally, it feels like the other way around when I drive around town mes­merised by dif­fer­ent coloured po­lit­i­cal signs with all man­ner of bizarre, ob­scure, and maybe even disin­gen­u­ous mes­sages de­signed to hook the vot­ing pub­lic.

Some­times it feels like the politi­cians and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties that drive them are the hun­ters, with it be­ing the metaphor­i­cal open­ing of duck (voter) sea­son when politi­cians lie in wait in their bee­hive-shaped maimai’s wait­ing to blow us out of the sky with overblown prom­ises and elec­tion bribes.

There are de­coys put out ev­ery­where to de­ceive and dis­ori­en­tate the vot­ers that swing over­head lured by the dul­cet tones of politi­cians skilled in the use of a call, while the de­coys of red, blue, green, black, and every colour in­be­tween con­fuse and fool the vot­ers try­ing to find safety in stormy skies.

Yes, it’s a sav­age dog-eat-dog world out there and you’d be a brave in­di­vid­ual to rely on any in­di­vid­ual politi­cian or party to solve all your prob­lems in one hit. In fact, it’ll never hap­pen.

Every elec­tion I can ever re­mem­ber has been pretty un­der­whelm­ing.

In the end, some­one will win and some­one will lose, but the sun will rise to­mor­row and the sky won’t fall in.

One thing that al­ways gets missed at elec­tion times are on­go­ing out­door is­sues and in­equities, of which there are many.

The big top­ics of health, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, and the economy, alas, suck all the oxy­gen out of out­door is­sues as vot­ers are rightly most in­ter­ested in their back pocket-book.

That’s a shame be­cause our out­door recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties de­fine who we are as hu­man be­ings and how much we en­joy life. Choke the life-force out of Jack or Jill, and rob them of their dreams, and they be­come dull in­di­vid­u­als in­deed.

This elec­tion, it’s sad to note there are no pur­ple de­coys in the flotilla of na­tional pol­i­tics.

Peter Dunne has long been a friend of out­door peo­ple on many is­sues and on many fronts. Of­ten mocked by the me­dia and mis­un­der­stood by the pub­lic, Dunne has been a strong ad­vo­cate for hun­ters and in­stru­men­tal in the for­ma­tion of the Game An­i­mal Coun­cil.

On a per­sonal tour of the Par­lia­ment de­bat­ing cham­ber with Dunne in 2005, one of the high­lights was get­ting to sit on the late Rod Don­ald’s pos­sum skin seat.

At one point, sit­ting in Dunne‘s par­lia­ment seat I looked across the cham­ber to the ad­ja­cent benches.

‘‘So that’s where the en­emy sits? I asked. ‘‘No,’’ he laughed, ‘‘that’s the op­po­si­tion, the en­emy sit be­hind you’’.

Lately, I seem to have been to all sorts of meet­ings, like many oth­ers, in an on­go­ing at­tempt to main­tain ac­cess to val­ued out­door rights, re­sources, and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Con­sul­ta­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion are much bandied-about terms these days but of­ten it feels like recre­ational peo­ple end up talk­ing to a brick wall of de­ci­sions seem­ingly al­ready made by our bu­reau­cratic masters.

Po­ten­tial re­stric­tions of ac­cess to Delaware Es­tu­ary, NZ Hi­malayan Tahr man­age­ment, or blue cod con­sul­ta­tion, the is­sues never seem to go away or get re­solved.

In the end, recre­ational users of coastal, river­ine, and pub­lic wild­lands are the losers, and gen­er­ally speak­ing it is our own fault.

Af­ter the end of the 2002 Elec­tion, when Nel­son-based po­lit­i­cal party Out­door Recre­ation ob­tained about 1.3 per cent of the na­tion-wide party vote I of­ten quoted (as me­dia spokesper­son) the Amer­i­can car­toon char­ac­ter Pogo who fa­mously said ‘‘we have met the en­emy and they is us’’.

Recre­ational groups are renowned for squab­bling and in­fight­ing and that is what makes such groups so easy to di­vide and con­quer by po­lit­i­cal elites solely fo­cussed on an eco­nomic agenda.

It was a true breath of fresh air then, when re­cently I at­tended a Nel­son meet­ing about the NZ Ini­tia­tive headed by highly ex­pe­ri­enced fish­eries sci­en­tist Dr Ran­dall Bess.

Com­ing about largely be­cause of a gen­er­ous be­quest left by the late Sir Dou­glas My­ers (1938 – 2017), a prom­i­nent NZ busi­ness­man and keen recre­ational salt­wa­ter an­gler.

Sir Dou­glas won­dered why recre­ational fish­ing never got any bet­ter and why the re­source had de­clined so much since his boy­hood. For­tu­nately My­ers had the vi­sion, fore­sight, and fi­nan­cial re­sources to fund some ex­cel­lent stud­ies and get the NZ Ini­tia­tive (see www.nzini­tia­tive.org.nz) un­der way in an at­tempt to ben­e­fit all New Zealan­ders with bet­ter ac­cess to sus­tain­able coastal fish­eries re­sources.

The re­ports and stud­ies are long, com­plex and need to be read in con­text to gain the full pic­ture of recre­ational salt­wa­ter fish­ing in New Zealand and over­seas but it all boils down to poor recre­ational fish­eries man­age­ment, lim­ited gov­ern­ment fund­ing, and lack of co-or­di­na­tion be­tween recre­ational users.

A key rec­om­men­da­tion of the fi­nal con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment is for salt­wa­ter recre­ation groups to be rep­re­sented by one ‘‘peak body’’ group at min­is­te­rial level and to be funded by gov­ern­ment from fuel ex­cise du­ties levied on recre­ational boat­ies in their boat en­gine us­age that are cur­rently si­phoned into the gen­eral road­ing fund.

It’s a great idea with much merit, based as it is on the Western Aus­tralian col­lab­o­ra­tive model of RecFishWest, a pro­fes­sion­allyad­min­is­tered recre­ational body that works with ex­cel­lent suc­cess on be­half of 740,000 li­censed salt­wa­ter an­glers.

Li­cens­ing of an­glers is a con­tentious is­sue but you can’t man­age what you can’t mea­sure, and you’ll have no po­lit­i­cal power or in­flu­ence with­out be­ing able to show who you are and who you rep­re­sent.

Per­son­ally, I whole-heart­edly sup­port the NZ Ini­tia­tive in their en­deav­ours and hope all salt­wa­ter an­glers can em­brace the con­cept so long over­due in New Zealand.

The Fish and Game model of fresh­wa­ter li­cens­ing has been a real suc­cess since the ear­li­est days of trout coloni­sa­tion and has poured funds back into the man­age­ment of sports fish and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Re­cently re­tired cham­pion of recre­ational ad­vo­cacy Bryce John­son of Fish & Game is un­likely to ever see a knight­hood in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate for his ser­vices to recre­ational ac­cess and river­ine pro­tec­tion but his out­door legacy will rip­ple out­wards re­gard­less.

As a school­boy one of my most chal­leng­ing school top­ics was art his­tory where we stud­ied iconic artists through time and their en­dur­ing im­pact on world art. One of my favourites was Al­brecht Durer (1471 - 1528) a mas­ter the­o­rist, painter and print mas­ter of the Ger­man Re­nais­sance.

His iconic wood­cut, the Four Horse­men of the Apoc­a­lypse, de­rived from the book of Rev­e­la­tion in the Bi­ble, de­notes the scourges of war, plague, death, and famine.

The work is a master­piece of doom-mon­ger­ing and im­mi­nent catas­tro­phe, but some­times you could al­most imag­ine a mod­ern po­lit­i­cal out­door car­i­ca­ture of cur­rent gov­ern­ment min­is­ters Barry, Smith, Guy, and Ben­nett astride their horses, gaunt-faced and cham­pi­oning the causes of Poi­son (Con­ser­va­tion), Pol­lu­tion (En­vi­ron­ment), De­ple­tion (MPI Fish­eries), and Over­crowd­ing (Tourism).

Yes, it is dif­fi­cult for out­door recre­ation­al­ists to sup­press thoughts of anger and frus­tra­tion at the sta­tus quo pro­mul­gated by most po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Throw­ing things at politi­cians is a fu­tile ex­er­cise too.

For a start it is a to­tal waste of per­fectly good rat poi­son, cow turds, and dil­dos that are bet­ter utilised for other pur­poses.

Amer­i­can an­gler and Wash­ing­ton DC po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ist CJ Bishop once gave me sage po­lit­i­cal ad­vice on-stream when he sug­gested that the num­ber one rule of po­lit­i­cal ad­vance­ment and lob­by­ing is to ‘‘never al­low your op­po­nents to de­fine you’’.

Here’s hop­ing out­door recre­ation­al­ists can get their act to­gether, and fast.

ZANE MIRFIN

Amer­i­can an­gler and Wash­ing­ton DC po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ist CJ Bishop

ZANE MIRFIN

The Hon Peter Dunne, left, and Zane Mirfin out­side Tas­man District Coun­cil in Oc­to­ber 2011.

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