National want to deny fishers their day in court
24 May, 2004 Media Statement
New Zealand's fisheries are probably the best managed in the world but that doesn't mean we should deny fishers their day in court, says Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope.
The minister says it is ridiculous for the National Party to be criticising the government for going to court to protect the fisheries for current users and future generations.
The amount spent on prosecuting poachers had been more than 50 per cent greater than other legal costs identified by National's Phil Heatley for the same period, so the suggestion that poachers are somehow escaping prosecution is just "a nonsense".
Mr Benson-Pope says it has to be remembered that the fishing industry contributes more than $1 billion in annual export earnings, making it the fourth largest export earner behind dairy, meat and forestry.
The allocation of quota as a management tool has had to weigh up the interests of commercial, recreational, and customary fishers while managing the fisheries in such a way as to guarantee species for future generations.
"The fishing industry is a litigious one," says the minister. "That's because the stakes are high.
"I admit that it is pretty frustrating that fishers constantly seek to challenge decisions in the courts. But that is their right and I don't see any way around that in a democracy like ours."
Mr Benson-Pope says it should be remembered that the Ministry's legal costs include a large component spent on taking part in two inquiries into the allocation of Scampi quota.
The minister also says Mr Heatley is being deliberately frugal with the truth having been supplied with written answers to questions that showed $2.014million was spent prosecuting fisheries offences in the same period. That's 53 per cent more spent going after poachers than these other legal costs.
"To suggest we aren't going after the poachers in court is just rubbish," says Mr Benson-Pope.
Contact: Pete Coleman (Press Secretary) (04) 471- 9685 or 021-811-003