NSW Election: Fishing Policies Released

Labor promises “lock-out” havens, Coalition sticks with “same, same”, Shooters side with commercial sector

WITH only a day before NSW voters go to the polls, the two major parties have finally released their fishing policies. Labor has announced it will make Sydney Harbour a “permanent” recreational fishing haven if it wins power tomorrow. However, the party is under fire for attempting to hoodwink anglers by not releasing details of possible lockout zones within the proposed haven.

Meanwhile, the Coalition has released what angling pundits say is a “bland” policy statement outlining its plans to move forward with reform of the commercial fishing industry plus announce pledges to help fund peak bodies for both the recreational and commercial sectors.

And the Shooters & Fishers Party has attracted criticism for fielding a team of “fishing” candidates with strong commercial sector links.

The Labor Party yesterday released a policy titled “Labor and Recreational Fishing – A Partnership that has delivered”. See HERE for details. While much of what Labor is promising has been welcomed by the state’s peak rec fishing group, the main pledge of a recreational haven in Sydney Harbour has come under fire for being inaccurate and possibly duplicitous.

Fisho yesterday contacted ALP fisheries spokesman Steve Whan for comments on the rec haven pledge. When questioned, Whan initially confirmed that a Sydney Harbour rec haven would not involve any further fishing bans. However, he later rang back and said he “could not rule out” the imposition of lockouts within the harbour.

The Labor policy was initially welcomed by NSW anglers but the party came in for scathing criticism once news that the Sydney haven could involve lockouts became public.

NSW’s peak rec fishing organisation, the Recreational Fishing Alliance, says Labor has “dropped the ball” by not being upfront about possible lockouts in any Sydney Harbour recreational fishing haven.

“While Labor has come up with some positive policies, we won’t accept any further closures in Sydney Harbour,” RFA president Stan Konstantaris told Fisho today. “For Labor to promise a rec haven and then try to lock us out of it is just not on. Some 60 per cent of the Harbour is already off limits to angling due to shipping, naval and other closures. And there are already a number of protected areas in place. For Labor to even think about more lock-outs in the Harbour shows they have not listened to angler concerns about the whole marine parks issue.”

Labor is committed to implementing a large marine park over the entire Sydney coastline. It has promised extensive public consultation before any zoning plans were formalised.

Meanwhile, the Coalition has attempted to avoid any controversy over marine parks by maintaining that “decisions on the future of NSW’s waterways would continue to be based on science and research”.

It is understood, however, that Premier Mike Baird is keen on implementing a Sydney marine park.

The Government has used the same “science and research” line to sidestep a push by the recreational sector and community activists led by high profile businessman John Singleton to limit commercial netting in the Hawkesbury River and Tuggerah lakes. While the anti-netting push hasn’t developed into an election issue, it will be interesting to see the outcome of speculation concerning a pre-election deal between the Premier and Mr Singleton’s group over possible netting bans.

Regardless of any possible backroom deals, the Coalition has pledged to move ahead with plans to reform the commercial sector and reduce the number of commercial fishers who currently operate in the state’s rivers, estuaries, lakes, beaches and other inshore fisheries. The plans to make the commercial sector smaller and more efficient are largely regarded as being positive for the rec fishing sector.

See the Coalition’s fishing policy HERE.

Apart from a few fringe parties, the Shooters & Fishers Party is the only political organisation in NSW to completely rule out support for any new marine parks.

The party’s website does not appear to contain any specific recreational fishing policies but makes clear statements on the marine parks issue by calling for an extended moratorium on any new parks and arguing for access to the existing parks network.

Shooters MP Robert Brown has long been a vocal opponent of unnecessary angler lockouts and is well regarded in angling circles.

However, there are concerns that the Shooters have become too closely aligned to the commercial fishing sector. At least two of the “fishing” candidates standing on the Shooters ticket for the 2015 election are either current or former commercial operators.

The decision by the Shooters to select these candidates has raised questions over the ability of the party to implement policies aimed at maximising the development of the rec-fishing sector.

A party official today told Fisho that the “priority” was the re-election of Shooters MP Robert Borzak.

Current polling indicates the Baird Government will be re-elected comfortably, although it’s obvious that anything could happen between now and when polling closes at 6pm on Saturday. The situation in the Legislative Council, where the Shooters currently hold the balance of power, is almost impossible to work out.

While mainstream issues like education, electricity privatisation, health and law and order are of prime importance to most voters, angling policies – or the lack of them – obviously need to be considered by keen fishos.

The 2015 NSW election presents anglers with difficult choices as all parties involved have positives and negatives associated with their fishing policies. It’s disappointing to see that no parties have listened to what rec fishers want or expect.

Hopefully this situation will change by the time the next election rolls around …

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.