Fish & Game councillor ordered to resign over 'chick scientists' comment

Ken Cochrane (left) made the comments at a meeting of the Southalnd Recreational Whitebaiters...
Ken Cochrane (left) made the comments at a meeting of the Southalnd Recreational Whitebaiters Association (SWRA) in Invercargill. Photo: Karen Pasco
The Southland Fish & Game councillor who made "patronising, sexist remarks" at a public meeting has been ordered by his colleagues to resign.

Ken Cochrane, who last week described a whitebait working group as being influenced by "chick scientists", has been told to resign by 4pm tomorrow.

His fellow councillors held an emergency meeting last night — Cr Cochrane and one other councillor were absent — and unanimously called for his resignation.

Before the council went into a public-excluded session, chairman Graeme Watson said it "cannot underestimate the seriousness of this issue to Southland Fish & Game".

"The emails, the texts, the phone calls, the newspaper articles and social media feedback has been unprecedented in my time in council."

He made a statement to media at the end of the meeting.

"Fish & Game is an organisation that takes a science- and evidence-based approach to all its decisions.

"Scientists who are merely doing their job should not have to put up with such unacceptable comments, and quite frankly, nor should anyone else.

"Mr Cochrane’s patronising, sexist remarks are not representative of Fish & Game as an organisation."

While Cr Watson was extremely disappointed, he was pleased the council could respond decisively.

He said he received 50 texts and emails on Tuesday alone, only two of them in support of the comments.

Cr Cochrane had been on the council for two terms.

At a whitebait consultation meeting on Sunday, he said the group was "biased" by Department of Conservation freshwater scientists, and he was sceptical about how the process would pan out.

"I sat there on day one and I thought, ‘I’m listening to a whole bunch of chick scientists who, if you look at the view they were pitching, everybody in New Zealand should not shave their armpits ... should whitebait in their jandals ... after they catch one patty for tea they should sit down, hold hands and sing Kumbaya."

Earlier, University of Otago head of zoology Gerry Closs added his voice to the growing condemnation of Cr Cochrane’s comments.

Prof Closs said the comments made by Cr Cochrane detracted from the real issue of whitebait.

While sexist attitudes were still around, they were increasingly out of date, he said.

"I’m sure attitudes like this exist among certain whitebaiting communities and in any community but increasingly they are seen as out of touch and out of place.

"I know a fair portion of those running these meetings — they’re highly trained, highly professional scientists, and don’t deserve to be ridiculed in public."