Outdoor issues ignored
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.
American angler and Washington DC political lobbyist CJ Bishop
The Hon Peter Dunne, left, and Zane Mirfin outside Tasman District Council in October 2011.