The Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Martyn Dunne has announced the appointment of a Queen’s Counsel to conduct an inquiry following revelations that his officials in MPI, decided not to prosecute industrial fishers filmed dumping overboard some or all of their catch.
The terms of reference for the independent inquiry have been released but recreational fishing group LegaSea says they do not go far enough.
LegaSea spokesman Scott Macindoe says the Minister needs to launch a truly independent inquiry and not allow MPI to run further rings around the New Zealand public.
“Given that the Ministry commissioned the original Operations then decided not to prosecute those responsible for the illegal dumping and blatant wastage, it is not appropriate for MPI to be so closely involved. Prior to this information being leaked, MPI had failed to act on its own investigations into the matter and had failed inform their Minister.”
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the Minister needs to shine a big light into the inner workings of MPI. How can the public restore their faith in this organisation and its ability to oversee New Zealand’s fishing assets when it looks like they are colluding with industry to hide the truth?”
LegaSea is calling for a Commission of Inquiry to be held because the issue is too great for a departmentally-controlled investigation and MPI appears to have granted lawbreakers immunity from prosecution.
A Commission of Inquiry must meet certain thresholds to be implemented:
- there is considerable public anxiety about the matter
- a major lapse in Government performance appears to be involved
- circumstances giving rise to the inquiry are unique with few or no precedents
- the issue cannot be dealt with through the normal machinery of Government or through the criminal or civil courts
- the issue is in an area too new, complex or controversial for mature policy decisions to be taken.
We believe this issue meets these criteria and call on the Government to respond accordingly.
“MPI did not make the reports into those Operations public. The reports and recommendations to prosecute were exposed by the researchers at the University of Auckland. MPI has rubbished the University’s research efforts and continues to deny there is a problem, but somehow we are supposed to accept their word for it that there are no more instances like these that need investigating and there’s nothing dodgy going on over the horizon. We simply don’t believe that is the case,” says Macindoe.