Source: Greenpeace New Zealand
It’s been revealed that tens of thousands of dollars in undeclared donations have been flowing from Talley’s fishing interests into the New Zealand First Foundation.
This is huge. It’s been clear for some time that New Zealand First has been influencing government decisions in favour of commercial fishing. Minister Shane Jones has even said he’s happy to be known as the “ghost fishing Minister”.
But the revelation that the Party’s closely related Foundation has had significant donations from Talley’s raises serious questions about undeclared conflicts of interest.
In response, we’ve launched a petition calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately initiate an external review of all Talley’s-related decisions made by her Government, and exclude New Zealand First MPs from decisions that affect commercial fishing.
While in Government, New Zealand First has played a role in a number of critical decisions that benefit Talley’s and are a detriment to our marine environment and recreational fishers.
Last year, we saw a halt to the rollout of cameras on fishing boats, which is consistent with Talley’s opposition to this scheme.
A commitment to put cameras on boats had been made by the previous Government in response to under-reporting of catch, including Talley’s being found to be underreporting the weight of their cartons of fish.
We’ve seen other Talley’s-related decisions made by the Government, such as lobbying by a governmental delegation at a South Pacific fisheries meeting just last week to get a Talley’s-owned fishing vessel off the draft international blacklist after it was caught bottom trawling 14 times in a restricted area.
New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones publicly undermined the prosecution of the vessel, labelling it “a mere technical issue”.
At the meeting, the New Zealand delegation was also one of the only countries arguing against more protection for vulnerable marine ecosystems from bottom trawlers. Talley’s is one of just two New Zealand fishing companies bottom trawling the South Pacific.
Last year, I was concerned enough about what was going on that I wrote a letter to Jacinda Ardern requesting she ensure New Zealand First and Minister Shane Jones be kept out of fisheries related decisions. She responded that the usual Cabinet conflict of interest rules would apply.
The Prime Minister then, like the rest of us, presumably didn’t know about these donations, and would not have been able to assess potential conflicts of interest that New Zealand First has been bringing to the Cabinet table.
Now that it’s all come to light, Ardern must protect the integrity of the Government and immediately launch an external review of all Talley’s-related fishing decisions, and keep New Zealand First MP’s out of any future decisions about fishing.
Greenpeace is campaigning to make sure that corporate interests don’t overpower public interests in Government decision making, especially concerning critical issues such as the health of our oceans.
If you agree, sign the petition here.