Fish and Game determined relationship with Federated Farmers won't 'undermine' environmental work

There are concerns a closer relationship between the two groups could have a negative impact on freshwater.
There are concerns a closer relationship between the two groups could have a negative impact on freshwater. Photo credit: Getty

Fish and Game is adamant it won't back down on its environmental advocacy as it moves to work more closely with Federated Farmers.

The two groups - both of which openly admit they haven't always seen eye to eye - met last week for a goodwill meeting.

But concerns have been raised that collaboration between the organisations could "undermine" Fish and Game's mandate to protect rivers and lakes.

Ray Grubb, Fish and Game's new chair, told Magic Talk's Rural Today those concerns are unfounded and he believes his organisation will actually be better placed to fight for freshwater protection now.

"We will maintain and probably improve our advocacy because we'll spend less on lawyers and more on talking to people who are directly involved in the water sector, using the water," he told host Dominic George on Thursday.

After the meeting was announced, Choose Clean Water NZ, a student-led campaign working to strengthen the country's freshwater policy, said it believed more cooperation between the organisations would "weaken Fish and Game's work to protect freshwater".

On Thursday, Grubb - who recently highlighted freshwater as being one of his main priorities - said it was a positive sign "young people have a particular interest in the environment".

"They're asking if we're going to drop our environmental credentials and our advocacy. And absolutely no way will we do that," he said.

He said Fish and Game hadn't "got an agenda as such", but was more focused on "opening a dialogue" with Federated Farmers. Initially it would work towards gaining better access for fishermen and game hunters on farmers' land, look at doing more work with catchment groups and seek to improve wetland management, Grubb said

"Those are cooperative things at the practical level, and at the national level I think we need to talk about policy and we need to talk openly together and see if we can reach agreements."

He said in the past, the relationship between the two groups was "like a bad divorce - where you start off by throwing things at each other and then yelling quite a lot and eventually you have to talk to each other for the sake of the children".

Although "there will always be" areas where the two groups disagree, Grubb said he believed Fish and Game would enhance its ability to negotiate and advocate for freshwater by working with the farming lobby group.

"What we have to do is ensure that we maintain the level of advocacy that we wanted to obtain and our principles of freshwater, which is what the New Zealand community wants and is now agitating for."

Following the meeting last week, Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said although the organisations would not be "breaking out the marshmallows, lighting the campfire and singing kumbaya" they recognised that "an adversarial approach really only benefits lawyers".

"We are not going to agree on everything, but we can at least disagree in a respectful manner that doesn't vilify either farmers or fishers in the eyes of one another."