Fish & Game wants guides licensed

Niall Watson
Niall Watson
The Otago Fish and Game Council has vowed to keep fighting for the licensing of fishing guides, saying the region’s back-country rivers are being taken over by guides and overseas anglers.

Council chief executive Niall Watson said the council would ask  the new Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage,  to introduce  licensing of  fishing guides. This would be done in conjunction with the New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association.

Discussion about the issue at the last Fish and Game meeting in Cromwell last month was heated, with some councillors saying more complaints were being received about the strain the increasing number of fishing guides and their clients was putting on Otago’s back-country rivers.

At present, fishing guiding is unregulated and anyone can be a fishing guide without a guiding licence.

Cr Dave Witherow said every year the region’s waterways were under more pressure and Fish and Game was not doing enough to seek a licensing system that would regulate the issue.

"We’re getting an avalanche of overseas anglers who are being accommodated on our finite and gradually diminishing fishing. There can only be one outcome of that, and I don’t see that our management is helping ... We’ve got to look after our resident fishermen and stop pretending we’ve got enough fish for everybody. It’s completely nuts."

Cr Witherow said he wanted Fish and Game to do more to resolve the issue.

"You meet anglers on the river all the time and it’s a perennial topic of conversation. They think Fish and Game is doing nothing."

Other councillors also wanted licensing to be introduced for fishing guides and said the Government had not done enough.

Mr Watson said it was "difficult to turn issues into regulatory responses, partly because the Government is so reluctant to accept at face value requests for change".

He said the issue was not so serious in some other parts of New Zealand, but was "huge" for Otago, because of its large number of fishing waterways.

Mr Watson said the Government had introduced legislation in 1996 to licence fishing guides, but had never confirmed the detail or regulations, so nothing had changed.

Department of Conservation (Doc) senior statutory bodies manager Rick McGovern-Wilson confirmed in 1996 Parliament voted to "provide a mechanism that could be used to put a licensing system in place".

He  said Doc did not support the licensing system at the time.

"Doc will give concessions to guides operating on the Doc estate. If Fish and Game want to advance a licensing system then it needs to progress the necessary policy work to show that it is needed, and what it might look like. A recent proposal put to the Minister of Conservation was declined, as more information was required. Fish and Game has been invited to resubmit within 15 months."

Ms Sage said she acknowledged Fish and Game’s concerns about the potential impacts of fishing guides with paying angler clients on other anglers and their enjoyment of a fishery.

She said she looked forward to receiving an amended proposal from Fish and Game about the issue, and would "consider it and the issues around licensing guides thoroughly".

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