An independent review of New Zealand’s fisheries sector undertaken in 2008 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that New Zealand fisheries management is amongst the world’s best. However the report also identified that there remain some significant challenges that will need to be tackled if the considerable potential for economic, cultural, social and environmental value from New Zealand’s fisheries resources is to be fully realised.
The PWC report found that collectively, these problems have resulted in a highly regulated system. Rules have been developed in part due to issues of philosophy, and the lack of confidence and trust of the various participants. The current operating model is typified by conflict, political influence, court action, and a regulatory regime that involves a command and control approach to management and enforcement rather than collective decision making and accountability. The current model encourages participants to look backwards, at perceived historical grievances, rather than forward, to a future vision.
The current position has led to a situation in which some stakeholders almost appear to relish the prevailing angst, in that it allows them to blame others for any problems. If the sector is to break out of this unconstructive cycle, it will be necessary for stakeholders to accept that there must necessarily be Government oversight – the issue becomes the nature and extent of that involvement. Similarly, there needs to be a different framework if the Government’s current position is to change. This will involve a recognition that things need to be done differently, and sector participants must step up and take accountability for improved outcomes.
There is currently a lack of clear leadership from sector players, with few formal or informal key influencers who can
effectively articulate the case for change and lead its implementation, while maintaining the confidence of the sector, the Government and the wider public. While there are examples of effective governance and leadership, such as the Nelson Scallop Commercial Stakeholder Organisation, Southland CRA8 fishery and the Rock Lobster Council, these are seen as the exception rather than the rule. Some stakeholders told us they felt that good leaders in the sector often became burned out by their attempts to navigate complex and bureaucratic processes.
As yet, the current model, and its perceived dysfunctional relationships, has not resulted in highly adverse fisheries sector outcomes. New Zealand’s fisheries are in better shape than many or most in the world. Some sound decisions and successful initiatives have been undertaken, by both government and other stakeholders. There is no immediate crisis, but there are significant tensions.
This makes the development of a shared and aspirational vision and action plan both essential and urgent. Experience in other sectors/regimes would suggest that by the time a full-scale disaster is recognised, resolving it may take generations. It is important therefore that the opportunity to capture benefits for all stakeholders is taken up. In our view, the sector currently reflects the famous parable of the boiled frog. If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But, if you put a frog in a kettle that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and then you gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. The frog's survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes.
The time to articulate vision and develop new ways of doing things is now, in order to proactively mitigate problems and maximise value from our fisheries.