Exclusive: More evidence suggests MPI knew of fishery wrongdoing


Newshub has received more evidence suggesting the Ministry that deals with fisheries knew of wrongdoing in the fishing business, but didn't prosecute anyone.

Operation Overdue is the report of a Ministry fishing investigator, in which he inspected two Sanford vessels and says the weight of the catch was being "understated" using a system that was "inherently biased".

Yesterday Nathan Guy, the Minister for Primary Industries, announced an independent review into allegations of fish dumping.

He says he retains full confidence in the officials at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

"Over numerous times, they have shown as the regulator that they take their role very, very seriously."

But Operation Overdue is the third report by Ministry officials leaked to Newshub which details alleged illegal activity.

"It would appear that MPI, the agency, didn't take enforcement action against it," says Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Russel Norman.

"It could hardly get more serious than this."

Sanford says it operates with integrity and strives for 100 percent compliance across all operations and that it "complied with all aspects of the investigation".

"There was no prosecution or penalty ... but as with any investigation of this nature, there were learnings at the time which were applied to the way we operate," Sanford confirms.

Mr Guy says he was unaware of the Operation Overdue report.

Newshub has already published the details of Operation Achilles and Hippocamp, which yesterday forced MPI to hire a QC to conduct an "independent review".

"Until this week when I got to see these reports become public, I was unaware the detail and some of the shocking nature of these reports," says Mr Guy.

Shocking because the reports reveal the Ministry's own investigators witnessed the "widespread" and quote "callous" illegal dumping of fish on multiple vessels in the South Island.

Again, no one was prosecuted. The review will delve into why.

"MPI takes their role very seriously," says Mr Guy.

When asked if he thought the public had lost confidence in the Ministry, Mr Guy replied: "Actually I think MPI does a good job."

The most alarming aspect of Operation Achilles is that MPI's own investigator says MPI had some sort of deal whereby they'd give immunity to boat owners who allowed the cameras and observers onboard.

We visited the home of one of the skippers mentioned in the report, but he refused to comment.

And when asked if there was a deal with MPI, the minister couldn't answer either.

"I don't know the detail about all of the background," Mr Guy says.

"This is where a QC is now coming in to have a look at any of the previous decisions."

But the minister did say the QC's review could result in law changes.