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Media release: Slash Inquiry's bold vision for New Zealand needs to be taken nationwide

The New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen (Federation) welcomes the release of the ‘Outrage to Optimism’ report by the Ministerial Inquiry into land use and forestry slash in Tairāwhiti Gisborne and Wairoa.

Members of the Federation – a trade association that represents the voices of independent, coastal and inshore fishers nationally – experience and feel the damaging effects of some land-based activities daily.

They see the harm to fisheries caused when silt sinks to the seafloor and smothers the animals and plants that live there. They launch their boats from beaches strewn with slash and navigate past hazardous floating logs. They pull up pots and nets full of debris and silt.

In our submission, the Federation called for this enquiry to be expanded to a national level, as the risks and consequences that prompted this inquiry in the first place are not exclusive to Tairāwhiti and Wairoa.

We see opportunity for some of the recommendations – taskforces, catchment-based land-use management and strengthening regulatory powers of existing governing bodies – to be applied to other high-risk, erosion-prone coastal areas of New Zealand such as Marlborough, Nelson-Tasman, and Taranaki, if not nationwide.

Many of the conclusions and recommendations are in line with our submission, specifically:

  • The need to establish a taskforce – or similar organising body – to oversee effective coordination to clean-up existing debris and repair damage; “de-risk” or suitably amend land use to prevent land-based activities from impacting coastal waters in the future; and prepare a more rapid, coordinated response to future events (p10). 
  • That the health of New Zealand’s people and communities is critically tied to integrated management of both land and water (p13). 
  • That sustainable land-use designations need to be suited to the local area, taking a more holistic ‘mountains-to-sea’ catchment-focused approach to land management (p18-19), which would reduce the impact of land-based activities on both fresh and coastal waters.
  • The need to reform the regulatory environment, and ensure governing bodies have sufficient enforcement measures in existing acts and regulations – such as the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry, the Resource Management Act and the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement – to ensure good land-use management across the country, and to protect our waterways and coastal waters (p22).

However, the Federation believes aspects of the report will fail to achieve the changes required to prevent repeat disasters of this scale in other parts of New Zealand.

The report ends with a bold, uncompromising, optimistic vision for the Tairāwhiti and Wairoa communities:

“of flourishing biodiversity; healthy catchments, waterways, and coastlines; and resilient infrastructure and diversified economy – so that they, too, can flourish and thrive.”

This is a vision the entirety of New Zealand deserves. The Federation calls for the Government to take action to ensure these benefits are experienced by all.