Fish, Game back tracks on voting decision

Niall Watson
Niall Watson
Should overseas anglers be allowed to vote in Fish and Game Council elections?

That topic sparked a vigorous debate when the Otago council met last week. It reversed its earlier support for the idea, sticking with the status quo instead. Council chief executive Niall Watson said the status quo was that only New Zealand-resident whole season licence-holders were allowed to vote.

Earlier this year, Otago Fish and Game told the national council it supported non-resident licence-holders being permitted to vote, but some Otago council members later had misgivings about that stance. Crs Dan Rae and John Jillett asked for the matter to be reconsidered.

''I think that anyone who holds a licence and comes here to fish our waters has a right to vote,'' Cr Vicky Whyte said. Council chairman Monty Wright took a similar view.

''In some cases, international anglers are more interested in our fishery than our own. Why shouldn't they have a say.''

Visitors who came here to fish spent a lot of money and had a broad knowledge about what was going on with this country's fisheries.

Some had also paid for ponds to be developed, Mr Wright said. Cr Dave Witherow believed giving voting rights to visitors was ''nonsense''. Fisheries were ''owned'' by the country and Fish and Game administered them, not just on behalf of licence-holders, but New Zealand as a whole, he said. The council did not have a mandate to give voting rights to visitors.

Despite ''alarming apathy'' among voters, Cr Ian Cole said allowing overseas residents to vote could threaten ''the long-established New Zealand tradition of managing our own fishery''.

Those who paid green fees on a golf course, were not given rights to manage the course, Cr Cole said.

It was highly unusual for the council to rescind a decision but appropriate this matter be reconsidered, Cr Rae said. Allowing overseas anglers to vote was wrong and would increase the cost of democracy, he said. They were not permitted to vote in central government elections here and there were no reciprocal voting rights when New Zealand anglers were overseas.

- lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz

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