A leaked recording of a phone call made by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash confirms that NZ First is controlling critical elements of the Government’s fishing policy, in particular the decision to stop cameras on fishing boats. 

The recording, which was obtained by Newshub, hears Nash explaining the reasons for the Government’s lack of progress on implementing the programme.

NZ First and its MPs have received thousands of dollars from corporate fishing companies, some of which were hidden in the shadowy NZ First Foundation.

Russel Norman, executive director at Greenpeace, says this recording is the smoking gun that connects NZ corporate fishing companies to Government fishing policy, via NZ First.

“This recording from March 2018 proves what the Government has previously denied: that it was NZ First that blocked cameras on boats,” he says.

“In this recording, Stuart Nash makes it plain that opposition to cameras on boats by Winston Peters and Shane Jones is the reason their rollout was stopped by this Government.

“Recreational fishers, environmentalists and all New Zealanders will be appalled by the contents of the leaked phone call in which the Minister confirms that opposition by NZ First, a party bankrolled by the fishing industry, is the reason cameras on boats were blocked. 

Norman says Greenpeace is repeating their call for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to remove NZ First from influence over fisheries policy, given the party’s history of receiving cash from big fishing companies.

“I wrote to the Prime Minister back in July 2019 asking her to remove NZ First from the decision-making process around fisheries management but she refused to act.

“The Prime Minister has consistently claimed that NZ First did not have undue influence on her Government’s fisheries policy and that conflicts of interest were being managed. This was prior to the revelations about donations from fishing companies to the New Zealand First Foundation. How could the Prime Minister manage conflicts of interest when the donations to NZ First Foundation were not even declared?

“This leaked phone call makes it abundantly clear that even the Minister of Fisheries privately believes that NZ First was the key decision-maker on blocking cameras on boats. 

“It’s no wonder, given this information, that Shane Jones embraced the label of ‘Ghost Fishing Minister’ at the Seafood NZ conference in 2019.”

The previous Government and then head of MPI Martyn Dunne agreed to put cameras on boats in 2016, after the Heron Ministerial Inquiry found significant problems of illegal dumping and MPI’s failure to prosecute this dumping. Cameras on boats were identified as essential to monitor illegal fish dumping and the illegal non-notification of the deaths of dolphins and other animals caught in fishing operations.

As Stuart Nash himself says in the call: “You think police deal with dodgy buggers, they’ve got nothing on the fishery sector.”

In the call, Nash says he’s going to revoke the regulations putting cameras on boats which he says will please Winston and the fishing industry. Nash claims that he will follow this up with a review that will then fix the well-known problems in the fishing industry. After the recording was made, however, NZ First blocked the review, and no change has occurred in fisheries management except to revoke the cameras on boats decision of the previous Government.