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Insights 38: 7 October 2016
Our latest report: What's the Catch? The state of recreational fisheries management in New Zealand
 
Jenesa Jeram on e-cigarette regulations
 
Jason Krupp comments on the Auckland Unitary Plan

Accounting for all commercial catches
Dr Randall Bess | Research Fellow | randall.bess@nzinitiative.org.nz
There is a fishing saying, ‘When in doubt, exaggerate.’ At least that is what comes to mind when the fishing industry repeatedly refers to the quota management system (QMS) as world leading.

In some respects, the QMS may well have maintained world leading status after 30 years, but certainly not with respect to holding commercial fishers accountable for their catches.

The recent report by Michael Heron QC refers to MPI and its predecessor as having been unsuccessful in grappling with commercial discarding and misreporting of catches since the QMS began.

So, the extent of discarding and misreporting is unknown. In all likelihood, it adversely affects many inshore fish stocks and, therefore, the recreational fishing experience.

My overseas travel for the fisheries project has first led me to an entirely contrary situation in the United States. That is, the West Coast groundfish fishery, managed under a QMS-type system since 2011, requires 100 percent accountability for every fish caught.

The most expedient way to attain full accountability has been to place human observers on board every fishing vessel. However, this practice is problematic, particularly for small-scale vessels that lack available space and harvest a complex of species. The cost of observers may be prohibitive for fishing operations that are marginally profitable.

There are also problems associated with having enough observers available and the logistics of moving them from port to port as needed. Many times fishers have simply missed good-weather opportunities to fish because of the unavailability of observers.

For these reasons and others, the West Coast groundfish fishery has gained the unenviable reputation as the most complicated QMS-type system worldwide.

With the combined efforts of fishers’ associations and non-government organisations, beginning in 2015 some fishing vessels have been trialling more cost-effective electronic systems to record their catches in lieu of observers. The design and implementation of these systems present significant challenges in recording catches for both scientific and enforcement purposes.

The Minister for Primary Industries has responded to recent media coverage of discarding and misreporting of catches by fast tracking the development of a similar system, referred to as an integrated electronic monitoring and reporting system (IEMRS).

As stated in the Heron report, some do not view the IEMRS project as the complete solution. What is also needed is clear policy, administrative and legal frameworks that incentivise more acceptable fisher behaviour.

Let’s hope New Zealand can someday again lead in this way.  

Randall is travelling overseas to research the way other nations have addressed fisheries management issues that are common among recreational fishers. Read his September newsletter here.


Pick a measure, any measure
Jenesa Jeram | Policy Analyst | jenesa.jeram@nzinitiative.org.nz
Given the Government has set targets for pretty much everything else – from eradicating stoats to eradicating smokers, a target for reducing child poverty doesn’t seem too much of a stretch, right?

John Key received quite a bit of flak this week for refusing to agree to a poverty reduction target, arguing that there are many different ways of measuring poverty, and it is difficult to pick just one. 

Key admits the explanation sounds a bit airy-fairy. But it is also very true.

There are different measures of poverty, from material deprivation measures, to income measures, to self-perception measures. Key is being urged to Just Pick One, any one, as if he were choosing which tie to wear. 

Alternatively, others have pointed out that the variety of measures to choose from is actually a gift. If it is too hard to pick one definitive measure of poverty, why not adopt multiple measures and targets? It’s not rocket science, apparently.

Unfortunately, picking one measure or picking ten will still not solve the original problem Key acknowledged. It is notoriously difficult to define poverty, let alone measure it, let alone design policies around reducing that target.

Consider the target the Children’s Commissioner suggested: a material deprivation measure. These measures are composed of things that households might have to cut back on, or go without completely. Here, poverty is not just about meeting basic survival needs, but includes items considered by society to be ‘a minimum acceptable standard of living’.

How is the government supposed to design policies to reduce ‘poverty’ when the index includes things like ‘replace worn-out furniture’ or ‘have one week’s annual holiday away from home’?

Handing out cash seems like an obvious choice. But what if some households choose to spend that money on things not included in the index? Remember, there are some who think the poor cannot be trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions without excise taxes and lifestyle regulations.

To reach its target, surely it would be more cost effective to simply replace peoples’ worn-out furniture for them. How then should the government’s approach to poverty be judged if poorer households become richer but still rate high on the deprivation index?

Commentators are right, it is easy to pick a poverty measure. It might be even easier to pick a handful. 

But what is the point unless there is a policy in mind to address the problem?


Getting our affairs in order
Jason Krupp | Research Fellow | jason.krupp@nzinitiative.org.nz
Perched in the high vantage of a think tank it is easy to spot a politician who by accident stumbles on a major problem in our society simply by opining on one or other of the issues of the day. 

Most recently it was the turn of ACT Party Leader David Seymour to perform this accidental but vital service to society. It occurred when he said that New Zealand no longer needed a Minister for Women, and instead proposed a Minister for Gender.

Much quibbling in the press ensued. But amidst this furore - and unbeknownst to Mr Seymour - the note that he struck true is that of affairs, or more pointedly the lack thereof. 

You see there used to be a Ministry for Women’s Affairs, with a minister in charge of said affairs. Now the Honourable Louise Upston is just the Minister for Women. This government has let state oversight lapse, and now women are free to conduct their own affairs without the explicit guidance of officials in Wellington. When did this happen? No one seems to know, which is even more alarming. It is privatisation (of stealth) by stealth I tell you.

And if you think this kind of hollowing out of state control is only limited to women, you are sadly mistaken. It seems the Ethnic Communities, Maori and Pacific People portfolios have all lost the mandate over affairs. Affairs will now be allowed to happen in these communities willy-nilly.

Were I an official working in Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Internal Affairs or Veterans’ Affairs, I would be very worried about the alarming direction of this trend. For all we know Foreign Affairs could be reduced to just Foreign, freeing thousands of Kiwis on their OE to have unregulated affairs in other countries, to say nothing of business travellers. 

Then again, perhaps this is a trend that should not be resisted, but steered into. There are all manner of affairs that could be improved by removing government’s influence. The Spanish, who have been without an active government for the past 10-months, seem to be thriving.
 
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