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 Acclimatisation 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.
Titanic Situation
The National Council of Fish and Game 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, Fish and Game 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 South Island licence holders provide 67% of all of Fish and Game’s’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 Fish and Game’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 Fish and Game corporate beneficiaries. Shakespeare would love this plot.
Footnote: Rex Gibson is a North Canterbury Fish and Game councillor, an executive member of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers and an ecologist


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