Talleys hosted fundraiser dinners for NZ First, but denies that's behind delay in fishing boat cameras

Members of fishing family Talleys organised two fundraising dinners at hotels for New Zealand First, Newshub can reveal - another link between the party and the fishing industry.

It came on a day leader Winston Peters fronted to say he's had nothing to do with delaying fishing boat cameras, after Newshub obtained an explosive audio recording of Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash talking about him and Shane Jones.

The recording was from February 2018, around the time the Government first delayed the rollout of cameras on nearly 1000 fishing boats - since then it's been delayed again until at least October next year.

In it, Nash points the finger of blame squarely at them for delaying plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats to make sure they don't break the law.

Asked why he told Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash he was against cameras on boats, Peters said NZ First wasn't, and that Nash had told "everyone in the media that [Newshub's] story is false.''

But actually that's not the case. Minister Nash never said that about the secret recording Newshub obtained - and he admits saying what's on it.

However he's now claiming he misunderstood NZ First's position. 

"I've apologised to Winston and to Shane and said I got it wrong," he said. "They took it well because it was heartfelt and meaningful."

It was back in 2016 that cameras on boats were due to be accelerated.

Newshub revealed Operation Achilles - a leaked fisheries report that exposed widespread illegal dumping of fish - that prompted a Ministerial Inquiry.

That inquiry found the Ministry for Primary Industries' decision not to prosecute over the dumping was "flawed". As a result, cameras were to be rolled out on all boats by October 2018 - but that never happened.

In June the following year, cameras were deployed on just 20 vessels fishing in Maui dolphin habitat. It's since been revealed there won't be any more until at least October 2021. 

"From a Green Party perspective, I've been constantly reiterating the need for haste," MP Gareth Hughes said. "We know cameras work, they've worked overseas. We need them on our boats now."

Concerns have been raised about NZ First's connections to the fishing industry. Talleys has donated money to NZ First MPs and other political parties, but denies there's any connection between that and the camera delays. 

Newshub can reveal Talleys Fishing directors hosted two fundraising dinners for NZ First - one last year at a Christchurch hotel.

There's nothing illegal or wrong about hosting fundraisers. The MC was former RNZ board chair Richard Griffin. He confirmed to Newshub that he'd MCed two fundraiser meetings for NZ First, and that Winston Peters, Shane Jones and Clayton Mitchell were there. 

Asked about the fundraisers, Peters said "I've got no idea what you're talking about."

Even after Newshub briefed his office, he still refused to talk about it, saying "I don't know what on earth you're asking these questions for".

But the recreational fishing sector says the public certainly wants answers. 

"Fisheries management processes need to be separated from political agendas," said Sam Woolford, Legasea spokesperson.

His message to Peters is that this should be about protecting the environment - not politics.