Labour calls for fish dumping inquiry at MPI

Labour calls for fish dumping inquiry at MPI

Calls for a widespread review into the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are escalating following an investigation which revealed its decision not to prosecute illegal fish dumping was "flawed".

The illegal activity was caught as part of a monitoring trial by MPI, which included a deal to allow fishermen immunity from prosecution in return for their participation.

Labour fisheries spokesman Rino Tirikatene believes the failures identified in the investigation are simply the tip of the iceberg and is calling for a widespread review into the entire ministry.

"We don't know what failures are lurking within MPI. This only came out by way of a leak, otherwise the public of New Zealand would never have known. So we need to have a much more wider comprehensive review."

Two senior managers at MPI recently resigned from their roles, and while the ministry says the resignations had nothing to do with the investigation, inside sources have told Newshub that is not true.

"The fact that senior MPI managers have resigned prior to the release of this report begs the question, what other failures are lurking within MPI? And that's why we are calling for a comprehensive investigation," says Mr Tirikatene.

"We really need to get to the bottom of it. We can't just give them a free pass or a slap on the hand when there have been failures identified."

Mr Tirikatene says Nathan Guy, as the minister responsible, also needs to be held to account.

"The minister's been a complete failure on this issue," he says.

"There's a saying that the fish rots from the top, and at the moment MPI stinks and it goes all the way to the minister. He needs to front up on this issue. He needs to restore confidence back to the people of New Zealand."

Michael Heron QC led the investigation, which covered three reports prepared by MPI that identified alleged illegal activity: Operation Achilles, Operation Hippocamp and Operation Overdue.

Mr Heron says while the findings of Operation Achilles and Hippocamp highlighted fish dumping and has been known since the introduction of the quota management system, MPI and the Ministry of Fisheries "haven't grappled effectively" with the problem by either looking to change the law or enforce it.

Mr Tirikatene says more must be done.

"I think it's unfair that the little guy, the little fisher, gets prosecuted for being one or two fish over or having his bag limits reduced when we are seeing one to two tonnes of fish being dumped right under the gaze of senior echelons of MPI enforcement.

"That's not good enough and we do need to go right to the nub of this."