Visit the Local Government NZ website and it will tell you that
The Local Government Act 2002 states that the purpose of local government is:
- To enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and
- To meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses.
Arkles Bay is a community in the true sense of that word. Auckland as such is really not. It is made up of a myriad of both physical and demographic communities. The one size fits all goal of Auckland Council fails abysmally to recognise difference. A Pukekohe Potato grower’s needs are fundamentally different to the needs of Arkles Bay’s residents and recreational visitors. To suggest otherwise is stupid.
The governance model of Auckland was broken and reassembled like Humpty Dumpty by King Key and his Man Hide. The result is an evilly distorted resemblance of what Auckland could have been, not the smooth and beautiful shape that a delicious egg should really be.
A few days ago the set netting ban in Arkles Bay ended “for winter”. At last month’s meeting of the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board Councillors Calum Penrose and Penny Webster along with two Bylaws Managers set out to convince the Board that all would be well. The city wide Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw would ensure that dangerous set netting would still be able to be dealt with. This presentation degraded in to a rather vicious tit for tat with Local Councillors Watson and Walker providing the presenters with cases of people threatened by the set netters in Arkles Bay.
Under the Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw the problem seems to be defining “danger and nuisance”. Set netting was described, and it’s fair to say it is, a legal use of any beach in New Zealand (unless they have some specific Central Government Legal Protection), and that it has to be allowed for by other users of the beach. Anything you can legitimately do on the beach must be done in such a way that is co-habitational with other users. All this of course fails to see that it’s pretty clear to a normal human being (not that law makers or bureaucrats always wear the hat of a “normal” human being) that set netting by its nature cannot co-habitate, it must dominate. It will always obstruct a beach by virtue of its presence.
If you can identify a breach of public safety and/or a nuisance call Council on 3010101. You will need to identify that danger and provide quality information to support the allegation of danger. You will need to be able to describe the danger and most likely gain photographic evidence to back you up. You will probably need to collect registration numbers of vehicles associated with the reported by law breachers. If your report is at night, it seems likely that there will be no response in person as this would present a danger to Council Officers who have no actual authority to arrest, detain or seize. All they can do under NZ law is go and tell the set netters they are in breach and possibly gather evidence for the enforcement agency, either Police or the Ministry of Primary Industries. Would you want to be the person with that job?
Ministry of Primary Industry officers have the primary responsibility for policing all forms of fishing in New Zealand. They have the authority of arrest in the case of breaches of the laws. There are however apparently less a handful of officers covering Auckland and Northland, supported by volunteers of which there are very few in the Hibiscus Coast area.
Despite the almost total lack of such policing, Council blithely states in “Our Auckland” “Any set netting occurring during this period must still be in accordance with Fisheries Act requirements administered by the Ministry for Primary Industry. These are explained clearly within a set net code of practice brochure distributed by the Ministry. The brochure also outlines other matters of good practice that set net fishers need to consider.” I’m going to go all modern on you and now use a texting abbreviation…I am ROTFLMAO. Set netters consider one thing and one thing only, where’s the best place for us to get the most possible fish with our nets? Arkles Bay is great as it’s just long enough to get 4 or 5 nets in to which complies with the 60m legal separation requirement. It’s fairly remote from the enforcement agencies and at night, no one will respond anyway. Lastly, it’s adjacent to lots of fishing reserves ensuring stocks are likely to be pretty good.
As Councillors Watson and Walker detailed, people in Arkles Bay have been threatened by set netters. If you are threatened, Council Management advised the local Councillors and Board that residents should call the Police on 111. They are of course in suggesting that assuming you’ll get the chance to do so. Councillors Watson and Walker replied that they had been advised by residents that on previous occasions the Police had done nothing. The Council Officers advised, sadly yet rightly so, that this is not something they can do anything in particular about. If you are ignored by the police after you report being threatened, assuming you have lived to tell the tale, you can complain about Police service or lack thereof by making an expression of dissatisfaction either online at http://www.police.govt.nz/contact-us/praise-and-complain or writing to or visiting any police station. The next step up from that would be a formal complaint, the details for which you can find at the same web link.
As an interesting aside, Auckland Council has apparently been advised that the total ban bylaw was illegal due to the rules of co-habitation of beaches, rules as already suggested are unworkable for set netting. I discussed this at length with Councillor George Wood (a member of the Bylaws Committee that threw away the Arkles Bay bylaw) who could not adequately explain to me that if a total ban bylaw was not legal, how a ban for some of the year could be legal. The answer to this may be the issue of customary fishing rights, although if that is the case, it’s interesting that the unelected Maori representatives to the Regulatory and Bylaws Committee voted for retaining a year round ban. It also be motivated by the thought that co-habitation can be effected by banning set nets in summer, and effectively handing the beach over to the netters for the winter!
It’s worth taking a look at the actions of Councillor Webster, a former Mayor of the Rodney District Council. She was on that Council (not as Mayor) when it enacted the original bylaws preventing set netting and seems to have been part of what the Minutes of that meeting suggest was an unanimous vote of support for the bylaw. Councillor Webster, your defence of the new order that is the SuperCity has let down the people of Arkles Bay. Like Councillors Watson and Walker, you had the extra insight of having been part of the original District Council setting of the bylaw. You should have fought and continued to fight to fulfil the purpose of Council as expressed by the Local Government Act, to reflect the goals of local decision making. Our local Councillors and Local Board all stood in favour of retaining the bylaw, as did most importantly the residents of Arkles Bay, 600 to 1. They have every right to feel let down by the Super City. To be fair, they’re not the only ones. Councillor Webster of course is no longer a local representative (she is the Councillor for the most Northern of Auckland’s ward, Rodney), but one would have hoped for better.
So where we are at today is that we have
- a potentially unenforceable set netting ban in Arkles Bay from Labour Day to Easter
- a Council that won’t enforce its bylaws outside business hours
- a Police force that allegedly won’t act on reports of arguments and threats between citizens on a beach
- a Ministry with less than a handful of enforcement officers to police fishing in the Upper North Island
- a community that presented 600+ submissions in support (including the submission from their own Local Board) of continuing a ban that was ignored in favour of the 1 submission against an all year ban and Council Officers and a bunch of City and South Auckland Councillors who seemingly decided that one size fits all is the only way to proceed.
This is the failing of today’s Auckland in yet another example of how this Local Government Authority no longer cares about Local.
I believe in freedom, but freedom has to be measured against the freedoms of others. The tragedy here is this beach will effectively no longer be usable by its community for half the year when it once again potentially sees four or five set nets positioned across the bay, stripping it of all its bounty and leaving swimmers, waders, kayakers and recreational boaties all effectively unable to utilise the waters it contains.
Too bad Arkles Bay, just pay your rates and shut up please.
John Davies is a former resident of Arkles Bay and witnessed when living there prior to the set netting ban just how bad the situation was. He will be a candidate for the Hibiscus Subdivision of the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board at the upcoming 2016 election and is firmly behind his former neighbours and the Local Board in thinking the new way is a wrong way.