Ordinary Council Meeting - 11 June 2015
LATE AGENDA Page
5 Notices of Motion
5.2 Notice of Motion - Proposed Changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 Relevant to Recreational Fishing (SF1496).............................................................................................................. 2
AUTHOR/ENQUIRIES: Bob Morrison, Councillor
That Council make a submission to the Department of Primary Industry in relation to the "Proposed Changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 Relevant to Recreational Fishing" emphasising the point that matters concerning recreational or commercial fishing in a council’s rivers, that there be direct communications and consultation between Fisheries and the council concerned especially in the matter of river closures to either commercial or recreational fishing including urgent amendments or revocation.
That Council make a submission to the Department of Primary Industry in relation to the "Proposed Changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 Relevant to Recreational Fishing" emphasising the point that matters concerning recreational or commercial fishing in a council’s rivers, that there be direct communications and consultation between Fisheries and the council concerned especially in the matter of river closures to either commercial or recreational fishing including urgent amendments or revocation. Submissions are required by 26 June 2015.
From the last Government report on our Shire, our financial situation was classed as weak and our outlook for the future was classed as negative.
Our Council of late has been working on our FIT FOR THE FUTURE report to the Government. Although this report illustrates how we can improve our Shire for the future, it does not provide certainty.
In simple terms the future of our Shire depends on improving the rating situation by having more people and families settling in our area and improving our business industrial base. It also depends on an increase in tourism because as shown by anecdotal evidence, a large percentage of those people and families visiting our area as tourists later become residents.
We are very lucky in our Shire that we have a new dam and new sewerage works capable of providing an infrastructure for many thousands of extra persons settling in our area together with this, we also have additional subdivisions opening up. What we lack are persons moving to and settling in our area.
We have a pristine environment, we have a variety of community groups providing community activities and support for our community and our infrastructure is capable of supporting many more people in our area. What is still required is that we have the facilities that will attract people to visit as tourists and later settle in our area. Previously an important feature of this was the quality of activities and the fish in our rivers which attracted many people to come here for holidays and later settle.
The problem now is with our rivers, namely lack of fish causing many families and tourists to bypass our area for other areas. The present cause of our problems is Fisheries causing our rivers to be open to commercial fishing and closing all the other rivers around our area with the result that the commercial fishers both with licenses and those without licenses raping our rivers of our fish stocks and destroying fish habitat.
This Council has attempted to bring this matter forward to Fisheries. Fisheries have totally ignored our requests to address Council, and answer our questions concerning fish and fishing in our rivers.
This now leads me to put forward the above motion, to make it mandatory for the Fisheries Department to consult with us in matters concerning our rivers. There is nothing in the attached proposal that makes changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (attached) making them consult with us on matters concerning our rivers. The aim is to make it mandatory for them to consult us on matters concerning our rivers and not treat us in the ignorant, supercilious way they have in the past. This is the reason that we should put in such an amendment proposal to make the government aware of the way Fisheries have behaved which is affecting our shires future.
The following is an example of the way Fisheries have treated this Shire over the last three years during this term of Council.
Some Recent History
In the Nambucca River, Creeks, Estuaries and Coastline Management Committee meeting held on Friday, 20 September 2013. The following motion was proposed and passed unanimously:
"That this committee provides support for Council in any initiative to close our rivers to commercial fishing and encourage our Council to become a fish friendly Council with the aims of protecting fish habitat and encourage sustainable recreational fishing".
In passing this motion, it should be noted that recreational fishing is sustainable and that is because of size limits and bag limits placed on recreational fishers and not the free for all we have with commercial harvesting.
At Council’s meeting on 31 October 2013 the following motion was resolved:
"That in respect to item 7 above, Council request the Department of Fisheries to write to those people and organisations where it is considered that this motion may have either a positive or negative effect on their business or the Shire if the river was closed and to ask these organisations and people for their opinions. E.g. those with fish licences, fish shops and other organisations that provide tourist facilities like caravan parks and our local tourist committee and associations."
Our request was ignored. Reminder letters were sent to Fisheries but no replies were received. Again our requests were ignored. As a result of this, Council at their meeting of 29 May 2014 resolved:
That Mr Andrew Goulston and Mr Darren Reynolds from the Fisheries (Coffs Harbour) be invited to address Council on the state of recreational fishing in our Shire’s rivers and be requested to answer questions.
Upon being put to the meeting, the motion was declared carried. Cr Morrison called for a Division.
For the Motion: were Councillors Ainsworth, Ballangarry, Finlayson, Hoban, MacDonald, Morrison and South Total (7).
Against the Motion: Nil Total (0)".
On 10 June 2014 Council sent a letter to the Senior Fisheries Manager, Coffs Harbour "requesting a representative of Fisheries address Council on the state of recreational fishing in the Nambucca River and to answer questions in relation to the impact of commercial fishing on fish stocks".
On 20 August 2014, a reminder letter was sent to Fisheries Coffs Harbour attaching a copy of the letter dated 10 June 2014.
On 12 September 2014, the original letter was finally replied to which totally ignored the contents of the request being made. Most of the information in the letter provided was purely of a background nature to the whole fishing industry that had NO relevance to council's original request. The only part of the letter that mentions our region was as follows:
"With regard to fisheries management in New South Wales, DPI implements stringent management frameworks, rules and policies across many areas including commercial and recreational fishing, species protection and habitat management to ensure long-term sustainability of NSW fisheries resources. The assertion regarding a lack of fish in the Nambucca River due to commercial fishing is not consistent with commercial catch and fishing effort information. Anecdotal information from the community is valued, but must be considered along with the long-term records of commercial fishery catch and effort. In addition to the suite of fisheries research and environmental impact assessment information that has been done and is available to fisheries scientists, managers and the community."
Again, that part of the letter has no relevance to actual fact and ignores the obvious. Commercial fishers catches over the last many years has decreased and anecdotal evidence over the last 10 years concerning recreational fishing has been ignored, as has this Council's request for the relevent representatives of Fisheries to address Council. The letter received shows there is a total lack of understanding of the situation concerning the Nambucca River and its estuaries and the effects of unbridled commercial fishing on recreational fishing. The perception in some quarters is that Fisheries have abrogated their responsibilities to our district as far as recreational fishing is concerned.
One of the factors lacking in our attempts to improve recreational fishing in our rivers and estuaries is our lack of information concerning licenses, volume of fish caught and personnel who hold these licenses. It is felt important that detailed information be provided so that a more analytical proposal be put forward to the Minister of Department of Primary industries (DPI).
Having basically been ignored by Fisheries for the last few years the following motion was proposed on the 10 February 2015
That this Council writes to Fisheries in Coffs Harbour, with a copy to our local member requesting the following information;
1 How many licenses have been issued in region 3?
2 The names of the people who hold the licenses?
3 The date when the various licenses were issued?
4 How many people from the licenses issued live in the Nambucca Shire?
5 The number of families that hold more than one license and list the number of licenses held by that family?
6 The amount paid for each license and periodic fees?
7 The period of validity of each license?
8 The amount of fish caught in region 3 by variety for the last 10 years?
9 The amount of fish caught by each license holder for the last five years?
10 How many research projects have been conducted in the Nambucca region 3 region concerning fish and fish habitat in the Nambucca River and estuaries. Kindly list these research projects?
11 In a recent press release by DPI it was stated "Reviews are undertaken periodically, approximately every five years, to ensure healthy and sustainable fish stocks". Could you please advise when the last review was undertaken with particular mention of the region 3 area and provide a copy of that review?
The motion was passed unanimously.
On the 19 February 2015 a letter containing the above request for information was sent to Fisheries. No reply was received.
On 30 April 2015 a follow-up letter was sent to Fisheries – no reply was received.
On 6 May 2015 a letter was sent to our local member requesting her to assist us in obtaining answers to our request from Fisheries. The local member advised that she had sent our request to the Minister for reply – to date no reply has been received.
To sum up all our requests to fisheries over the last 2 to 3 years have been ignored.
What is more difficult to understand is that Fisheries have totally ignored sections of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38, in particular the objects of the act as follows;
"The objects of this Act include:
(a) to conserve fish stocks and key fish habitats, and
(b) to conserve threatened species, populations and ecological communities of fish and marine vegetation, and
(c) to promote ecologically sustainable development, including the conservation of biological diversity, and, consistently with those objects:
(d) to promote viable commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, and
(e) to promote quality recreational fishing opportunities, and
(f) to appropriately share fisheries resources between the users of those resources, and
(g) to provide social and economic benefits for the wider community of New South Wales, and
(h) to recognise the spiritual, social and customary significance to Aboriginal persons of fisheries resources and to protect, and promote the continuation of, Aboriginal cultural fishing."
Please particularly note sub Para (e), (f) and (h) above.
SOME PAST HISTORY
At a meeting in 2001, Messers Kent and Hudson - addressed Council. They tabled a copy of a circularised letter which had been signed by some 520 individuals and forwarded to the Minister – many pointing out that they would not visit the Nambucca again because of the poor fishing.
A letter was also tabled from the Local Nambucca Aboriginal Land Council pointing out that this impact and rapidly depleting fish stocks were having an adverse effect on Gumbayngirr culture, heritage, leisure and lifestyle.
Now that was the situation in 2001-2003. Fifteen (15) years have now elapsed, and nothing has changed and the situation has become worse, to the extent that tourists are bypassing our areas and going on further in both directions to rivers that have fish and that are closed to commercial fishing. Our businesses and the vibrancy of our Shire is declining. Fewer families are settling in our area.
Given the events that have unfolded, particularly the declaration of Recreational Fishing Areas in neighbouring rivers and their closure to commercial fishing, the pressures have increased alarmingly on the Nambucca River to the extent there are hardly any fish remaining in the river for recreational fishing. Because of this, many of the netters (commercial fishers) have moved to our rivers.
As a result of a couple of newspaper articles a year or so ago, many replies were received detailing people's experiences of fishing in the Nambucca River and estuaries, basically stating there was hardly any fish and they would not be stopping in our area again.
On 11 April 2012, the Mayor at the time in an email reply to a local resident stated the following;
"as I stated previously, even if it involves a cost to the taxpayer. I think the Tasmanian experience of the government buying back licenses and cancelling them may well be in the long-term financial and environmental interests of all concerned, including the commercial fishermen. Overfishing costs us money in lost tourism and makes the commercial fishing industry unliveable even for licensed commercial operators who do "do the right thing"".
What really needs to be considered at the moment is a strategy that will benefit both our local long time commercial fishers and recreational fishers and limiting (by buying back) the licenses of commercial fishers from outside our area.
If we look at the last paragraph of the Mayor's letter, we can see an excellent option for discussion in solving the problem. But how can we discuss or solve such a problem when Fisheries, the controlling body refuses to talk to us and refuses our requests for information.
The following are additional options that maybe put on the table that may assist us in coming to a positive outcome that will benefit our Shire:
1 Rotate river closures to commercial fishing in the coastal areas of New South Wales at say three yearly intervals.
2 Buyback the fishing licences from those persons who live outside our Shire.
3 Allow commercial fishing in region C for local fisherman of our Shire where their licenses have been utilised continuously in the last 10 years.
4 Close all commercial fishing during holiday periods including Christmas, Easter and school holidays for one week prior to these holidays and ending one week after the holidays.
These are just a few suggested options that may be worth discussing with Fisheries to assist our Shire with our tourism, businesses and future residents settling in our area. The problem is that Fisheries have totally ignored all our requests and it would appear that the only way for any improvement to happen is to make it mandatory that discussions take place between Fisheries with ours or any other Council before any decisions are taken by Fisheries regarding our rivers and estuaries. To ensure this happens it must be enshrined in the latest amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 relevant to recreational fishing otherwise the impasse continues.
The problem at the moment is that nothing is happening and nothing will happen unless we continue to press the matter. Council’s efforts now are to make ourselves FIT FOR THE FUTURE. It is difficult to understand why Fisheries are working against our interests and to the detriment of our Shire. We must endeavour to make Fisheries considerate of our present situation and our future plans and aspirations and work together with us in our endeavours.
N:\cs\Exec Assistant - GM\NSW Councils - advice of fisheries amendment bill consultation.pdf - NSW Councils Advice of Fisheries amended Bill Consultation
N:\cs\Exec Assistant - GM\summary-of-proposed-changes-commercial-industry.pdf - Summary of Proposed Changes to Commercial Industry
Ordinary Council Meeting - 11 June 2015
Notice of Motion - Proposed Changes to the Fisheries Management Act 1994 Relevant to Recreational Fishing (SF1496)