The fishing sector says it is feeling let down by its minister after comments comparing them with criminals surfaced on Tuesday night.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
They were made by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash in a recorded conversation in 2018, where he also outlined his belief that New Zealand First was opposed to placing cameras on fishing boats.
Nash’s recorded comments had added weight to claims long made by environmental groups, that NZ First was ensuring the ongoing delay in putting cameras on boats.
But it was his comments about the fishing sector, revealed by Newshub on Tuesday night, that had upset the country’s fishers.
Nash insisted his comments were in fact only about Hawke’s Bay Seafoods which was prosecuted for misreporting catch, and not the sector as a whole.
Fishers have said his words were frustrating to hear given the work they had been doing to avoid catching endangered seabirds and dolphins in their nets.
All wanted to stay anonymous and one said Nash’s comments were “a measure of the man”.
Iwi were major players in fisheries and owned significant amounts of quota.
Photo: RNZ / Conan Young
Fisheries body Te Ohu Kaimoana head Dion Tuuta said his interactions with the minister had always been positive.
“You know what he said were the comments of a new minister. I think he was in the role for like two months. And those for me reflect his initial impressions of what the industry was like. I can attest to the fact that in the time that he’s been minister, he’s learned a hell of a lot about what the fishing industry is really like.”
Allegations that NZ First opposed cameras had been painted as a cash for favours scenario, with the party receiving thousands of dollars from fisheries heavyweights Talley’s.
Talley’s have been approached for comment.
But Tuuta said his organisation had never lobbied NZ First to delay the introduction of cameras.
“In our discussions with Ministry for Primary Industries we’ve always been very clear that the policy settings around cameras need to be right before they are brought in.”
NZ First MP Shane Jones, who had held a number of high ranking positions within the Māori fisheries sector, said today there was no truth to Nash’s comments that his party was against cameras.
“There are rules around the confidentiality of Cabinet but any suggestion that I in particular, or our party has somehow undermined the ability of Mr Nash to do his job is a bare-faced lie.”
Jones said there was nothing wrong with his party accepting donations from the fishing industry.
“I just think it’s a grubby and, quite frankly, a tawdry attempt to try and taint, a figure who’s come from Māori fisheries who will never be resiled from the fact that I am an industry apostle. Now if some people want to dedicate money to my campaign and I openly disclose it, I think that’s how democracy should work.”
For his part, Nash said his comments from two-and-a-half years ago were made as a new minister who had yet to get a good understanding of how the sector actually worked.
Today he revealed he had apologised to Winston Peters and Jones over his remarks.
“I think they took it well because it was heartfelt and I absolutely meant it. I got that wrong.”
As for the cameras which were supposed to be introduced across the fleet this year, have again been delayed until at least October next year.