Fishing for dollars: A Shakespearean Tragedy?

Opinion piece by Rex Gibson

For most anglers freshwater fishing requires the payment of $133 for a fishing licence. There are different rates for overseas anglers (and only some Australians seem to moan about that), youth, family, loyal seniors, short term licences, etc., etc., and a game bird hunting licence costs you $98.
I recently uncovered my “Juvenile’s Licence’ from 1962 (No. 692) issued by the South Canterbury Acclimatization Society. It entitled me to a daily take of 15 acclimatised fish, not more than 12 to be trout (but only 4 from all lakes) and not more than six salmon were allowed. Interestingly, all the regulations fitted on two A4 sides. The silverfish have since done more damage to it than I did to the fishery. It cost seven shillings and six pence; my earnings from hand mowing three small lawns for little old ladies.
Like the Titanic
The National Council of F&G is now looking at its funding stream with some urgency. It has circulated a Strategic Financial Review Recommendations paper to councillors; a document that I consider only “shuffles the deck chairs on the Titanic”. Like the Titanic, F&G has hit an iceberg; the effects of Covid-19.
Licence money (fishing and game bird) goes originally to the Fish and Game region where the licence is bought. The regions are then levied by “Head Office” for a percentage of that. The Mainland licence holders provide 67% of all of F&G’s income. For almost all South Island regions that levy is almost exactly 50% of the fees collected. For the North Islanders all of their regions pay levies of less than 18% of their licence fees. Wellington actually receives over 130% of what it collects, Taranaki 214%, and Northland 314%. On the Mainland, only West Coast is subsidised (by 1% of the national budget). All these subsidies thus come from South Island licence holders. The government makes no financial contribution.
Three Witches
The formula used appears to have been brewed up by the three old witches, of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in their mysterious cauldron. It was subsequently hidden in a bog to be unearthed by F&G’s national council sometime since 1990. As with all things made of toads’ gonads, bile of bats, venom of snake, and the eye of newt, its true composition is unknown (or is it just a closely guarded secret?). Despite this, the dubious “formula” is still used to reallocate the fees paid by South Island licence holders to the North Island regional F&G corporate beneficiaries. Shakespeare would love this plot.
The National Council’s cauldron of money provides DOUBLE what the northern regions would get from a fair and equitable allocation.
It fits the three witches’ chant of: “Double, double, toil and trouble – Fire burn and cauldron bubble”
Infamous Formula
Clever gerrymandering of the voting system of F&G’s National Council has kept that cauldron “on the bubble”. Just as Macbeth and his evil lady murdered King Duncan, and others, to become king himself, so the northern advantage in the F&G National Council funding allocation system has, by the wielding of this infamous formula (over the last 20 three decades), murdered the southern regions’ finances. Macbeth’s reign came to a timely end when the fateful prophesy of “til’ Birnam wood doth come to Dunsinane” came to pass. The Southern F&G regions have a similar quest to fulfil to that of Macduff.
If the National Council members can only represent the parochial interests of their regions then, like Macbeth’s Dunsinane Castle on the hill, that Council must fall. Perhaps it is time to consider a national council whose members are elected by all licence holders, irrespective of their home region? 
Racked with Guilt?
Lady Macbeth committed suicide when racked with guilt at what she had done. Perhaps it is time that National Council did the same if it cannot see an equitable solution to this Shakespearean-like tragedy unfolding in F&G’s finances. Note also that the “Head Office’s castle” absorbs almost 25% of all income (c$2.7million).
The National Council is now considering a review of its organization! Go figure. If a recent video conference is anything to go by, a shadowy figure (purporting to be Mervyn English from DoC) largely obscured by a hoody, seems to be behind it. Wasn’t there an episode in “Yes Minister” where reviews controlled by the bureaucracies stalled actions long enough for another party (in this case ‘council’) to be elected? All reviews by past councils have died at their feet (poisoned by their witches’ brew?). Is it time to consider the phrase “fit for purpose” in terms of the National Council and its financial structure? It is difficult to see any internal review succeeding given the current parochial arrangement. Any review must be independent of the lecherous “old witches” of both Fish and Game’s National Council and of DoC.
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