Fish and Game council withdraw request to remove current chair

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The New Zealand Fish and Game Council has changed its mind about removing the controversial chair of the Hawke’s Bay Fish and Game.

The Hawke's Bay Fish & Game office.

The Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game office. Photo: Google Maps

Bruce Bates was asked to resign last year after an audit of the Hawke’s Bay Fish and Game raised serious concerns about its governance, but he refused.

The New Zealand council then wrote to the then Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage asking her to remove him.

However, after the former New Zealand chair Lindsay Lyons was ousted from his role in April, the council under the new leadership of Paul Shortis, wrote to the minister asking her to withdraw their request.

In an August letter, obtained under the Official Information Act, Shortis told Sage: “The NZC no longer believes the HB chairperson should resign and the NZC agreed to apologise to the HB chairperson for the delay reaching a resolution on this issue and any hurt as a result.”

That was despite the previous chair asking Sage to remove Bates in September 2019.

“We are concerned that any lack of action will ensure the long standing elements of dysfunction will continue into the future,” Lyons wrote.

The leadership coup by Shortis came as a review of Fish and Game was launched by Sage, who said the organisation was “no longer fit for purpose”.

Just before retiring as minister, Sage told RNZ the decision on whether to remove Bates would lie with the incoming minister Kiri Allan.

Many in Hawke’s Bay’s hunting and fishing communities have told RNZ they are unhappy with Bates staying on as chairperson.

However Allan indicated she would not remove him.

“I have no information to indicate that I should pursue this further at this point.

“I understand the National Fish and Game council has withdrawn their request to replace the Hawke’s Bay chair, noting that an independent governance expert had been appointed to the Hawke’s Bay council.”

Allan said the Ministerial review of Fish and Game was “well advanced”.

A final report was due early next year.

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