There was no consultation with the seafood industry, no policy analysis, no cost-benefit study and no impact assessment on the move to ban commercial fishing in the inner Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds in favour of recreational only fishing.
Three years on in the midst of another election campaign, the proposal appears to have been quietly parked.
With Parliament set to adjourn in August ahead of the campaign proper leading up to the September 23 general election, there is no sign of the proposed Marine Protected Areas Act that would sanction the parks’ creation.
Environment Minister Nick Smith has conceded as much, saying last week the policy was still being refined.
“The Government remains committed to a recreational fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds,” he was reported as saying after a meeting with Marlborough Marine Futures, which is developing its own proposal for a marine park in the Sounds.
“Our plan remains for legislation but we are entering the process for further consultation to ensure we get the detail right.”
The Government deserves kudos for that approach but it need look no further for insight than the numerous submissions already received on a flawed concept that even the recreational sector and environmental groups do not support.
Neither did Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright in a critical response last year to the proposed MPA legislation.
She warned that recreational bag limits may need to be reduced and/or size restrictions tightened in the Gulf given Auckland’s rapid population increase and the “tens of thousands of boats” that fish there already.
“Recreational fishing parks are more likely to be successful and to integrate better with other marine protected areas if designed in a collaborative way, rather than by the stroke of a pen in an Act.
“Enacting one-at-a-time ad hoc legislation is not the way to ensure the development of a representative integrated network of MPAs.”
The parks, if adopted, would also drive a number of small scale fishers out of business.
That includes D’Urville fishermen like Craig Aston and Lindsay Elkington, whose families have fished those waters for generations, and Piako Pete at Thames who nets flounders and has a popular retail outlet.
None of them are in conflict with recreational fishers and all fish within the bounds of the Quota Management System.
Recreational fishing parks were designed to catch votes.
They are not a conservation measure and in the case of snapper in the Gulf, will merely displace catch effort.
And even those being wooed were not convinced.
Is banning all commercial fishing in the inner Gulf as part of the new MPA going to achieve abundance, recreational lobby group LegaSea asked.
It answered: There are small, commercial family operations that supply the local market and do little damage to the fishery. Overall these guys tend to do a good job … so why throw a few small-scale operators under the bus for so little benefit?
Perhaps Nick Smith has asked himself the same question.