Willie Jackson slams 'dirty, rotten lowdown mongrel' who recorded Stuart Nash's controversial fishing conversation

Labour MP Willie Jackson says whoever leaked an embarrassing phone call made by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash is a "dirty, rotten lowdown mongrel".

In the call, Nash is heard saying Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First is behind a delay in getting cameras installed on fishing boats. 

The call was made in February 2018, around the time the Government delayed the rollout - intended to deliver "independent information about what goes on at sea" to Fisheries New Zealand, a division of the Ministry for Primary Industries. 

"I've got to play the political game in a way that allows me to make these changes," Nash said in the call, to an unknown listener. "Now, Winston Peters and Shane Jones have made it very clear they do not want cameras on boats."

Nash contradicted that line earlier this week, insisting NZ First were not behind the delay - which has been extended to October 2021. He said the comments two years ago were made when he was "a new minister", "coming to grips with the portfolio".

"I got it wrong," Nash said, offering his "heartfelt" apologies to Peters and NZ First. 

But National MP Judith Collins says he got it right.

"I don't know where it came from, but I thought it was a very remarkable thing to hear that from the Minister for Fisheries - saying why they don't have these cameras on boats is because Winston's put him in his place," she told The AM Show on Friday.

"And poor little Nashy has had to go out there and say, 'I'm so sorry Uncle Winston for saying that about you.' How demeaning - he's a senior minister... Nashy has been caught telling the truth, and that's his great crime." 

Stuart Nash and Winston Peters.
Stuart Nash and Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty

NZ First has denied being behind the delays, despite their close links to the fishing industry. Jones blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the latest delay. Nash and the ministry gave a different reason, saying it was because the technology wasn't quite up to scratch yet. 

Some cameras have already been installed - since November 1 they've been keeping an eye on ships off the western coast of the North Island operating in areas where there's  chance they'll encounter the critically endangered Māui dolphin.

NZ First told Newshub it was Nash's office who requested the latest delay, "not us", and Jackson said they were "right on the money". 

He said there's no beef between Nash and NZ First.

"We were all talking the other night together. Winston gets on well with Nashy. I was with Nashy and Winston the other night. Everything is fine. 

"I can't help it if there's some dirty, rotten lowdown mongrel who recorded - who does that? ... You don't record someone like that."

In New Zealand, it's generally not illegal to record a telephone conversation without telling the other party.