Fishery Officers better trained and equipped now
21st February 2006
The new Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton, said today that the National Party spokesperson on Fisheries was out of touch with the changes in the Ministry of Fisheries with regard to Fishery Officers, both honorary and paid.
"Unfortunately Phil Heatley has jumped the gun on this one", said Jim Anderton. "He is too keen to reveal a scandal when they isn't one.
"The total number of Honorary Fishery Officers (HFOs) has decreased from 246 in 2002 to 160 at the end of 2006. That's true. However, the current smaller group of HFO's are far better trained, equipped, supervised and productive in providing greater effectiveness than the previous higher number.
"The HFOs support and compliment professional, full time Fishery Officers and it has been an intentional strategy to decrease the numbers of HFO's to improve the health and safety, competency and effectiveness of HFO's. Previously, a number of HFOs were only on duty a few days per year, which was their choice, but the time and cost of training, equipping and managing HFOs to work a few days a year was not sustainable. Many HFO's did not want to increase their availability.
"The role of the HFO has become more complex and challenging and obligations on MFish in respect of health and safety, training and supervision have also increased," the Minister said.
"The current number of 160 HFO's are better trained, equipped and supervised providing more productive hours of HFO duties per year. They are also a regional resource, which means they work around a larger area not just their local beach," Jim Anderton said.
"In regards to paid Fishery Officers, the total number of permanent positions in New Zealand at February 2006 is 157. This includes a number of current unfilled vacancies. When these figures are compared with 2002 figures, there is an increase from 126 (paid permanent positions), an actual increase of 24 per cent. In 1999, after National lost office, there were 111 Fishery Officers so there has been an actual increase of 41.4% since then.
"These numbers do not include specialist positions that increase the efficiency of fishery officers such as analysts and the Communications Centre personnel. The numbers provided in the WPQ's were taken from 1st July to obtain a consistent 'on average figure'. These figures explicitly excluded vacancies," the Minister said.
"Throughout 2005 the Compliance business underwent a re-organisation process during which a number of vacancies were suspended pending the outcome of the re-organisation.
"Since 1st July 2005 two Fishery Officer training courses have graduated as well as a number of related Fishery Officer positions filled, hence the increase in numbers.
"With respect to the North Island, the current total number of permanent Fishery Officers is 115 compared to 88 in 2002, an increase of 30.7%," Jim Anderton said today.
"We know that surveillance and detection are vital in protecting our coastline from plunder. Fishery officers are operating in a different and more complex environment than a decade ago. New Zealand's coast is long and many parts of it are remote, so the role of both paid and voluntary fishery officers protecting the fishing resource, is crucial. Future generations will be able to fish, thanks, in part, to these Fishery Officers," said Jim Anderton.