What’s happened at the Dept. of Conservation?
Let me put it another way – When did DOC become just another revenue grabbing government department ?
The Joe Average NZ citizen used to hold several of the countries government departments in very high standing – the Police, Dept of Conservation, Tourism & Primary Industries. Some departments are less highly rated – IRD, Army, Work & Income to name a few. Well after years of doing amazing things & being on the top podium, DOC are on a very slippery slope to being very un-cool. Now I hear you asking yourself – what’s Houghton on about?. Well read the story below. But first a wee story – I sat on a plane to Wellington a few years ago alongside a very senior police officer – he told me the public’s rating & trust in the police force took a huge dive when they merged with the traffic department. A dive that they have never recovered from, Joe Average (mostly) only ever has positive experiences with the police force. Post the merge the nice local police officer was writing them tickets for minor traffic misdemeanors.
A loud warning to those who are in the habit of trawling a lure while underway in the off chance of bringing in a kahawai… or better still, kingi.
While cruising in glorious weather down to the bottom end of Waiheke last Easter weekend we noticed a largish inflatable approaching us from the starboard quarter with the two aboard furiously taking snap shots, a common occurrence when you own a classic vessel. We politely waved and carried on. The inflatable drew alongside, the couple raised their hands and ordered loudly and officially to “Stop your vessel! Stop your vessel!” of which we did. Noticing the customary khaki DOC uniforms it suddenly dawned that we were in a spot of trouble. The ultimate sin of trawling into a marine reserve had been committed. The photo taking wasn’t in admiration of our dearly beloved classic launch after all but to provide evidence of our bending, albeit fish less rod dragging through the water of which was immediately wound in. We politely obliged to the female DOCs’ authoritative request to come aboard. She appeared somewhat surprised to find the cockpit bereft of anything remotely fishy or suspicious, not even so much as a net or fish box was in evidence. After what seemed like a lifetime of lengthy questioning and much note taking they were finally satisfied that whilst we were aware of the marine reserve we had completely forgotten to take in our offending lure. Regardless, we had unlawfully trawled into marine reserve waters and had thereby committed an offence.
Friday evening 9th June, a court summons from DOC was hand delivered to our front door. Enclosed, if we wished to accept, was a diversion agreement to be completed and returned with a “donation” by 15th June. Failing to comply would lead to a court appearance or at worst, arrest. Of course we admitted our “offence”, completed and returned the diversion without delay and paid: (1) Reparation costs $250 to DOC (2) Donation to Project Jonah of $400.00. TOTAL $650.00
Now, whilst we had no alternative but to plead guilty to the charge and ultimately pay a “fine/donation” to a worthy cause the like of Project Jonah, it does seem somewhat unfair that there are many out there who blatantly and regularly take undersized fish, reap more than the given quota etc. and yet somehow manage to sneak under the radar.
The moral of the story is be aware of marine reserves especially while towing a line.
This folks is an incredible example of the abuse of authority – all this misdemeanor deserved was a written warning. Action like this will only turn people off DOC, when a boatie sees a genuine case of law breaking i.e. under size or excessive catch happening, they may now be hesitant to ‘dob’ the offenders in.
Normally I would suggest we all write to the Minister of Conservation but folks the incumbent is none other than Ms. Maggie Barry – so do not waste your time – she is what they call around parliament ‘an oxygen thief’ 😦