26th April 2023
When things aren't as they should be
Back in late 2011 I discovered what appeared to be a man-made diversion to a salmon spawning stream and iconic trout fishery on the Water Conservation Order protected upper Rangitata River, at about he same time excessive flood protection works were carried out on a very good local small stream fishery. These two issues led to the establishment of this trust. However, in trying to resolve these issues, the Trusts' experiences with Central South Island Fish and Game raised some flags, and to cut a very long story very short the Trust was unable to progress restorations efforts on these two streams. Simply, if the statutory manager of those fisheries say 'there's not a problem' then it very hard to achieve much. In 2023 the current state of Deep Creek reflects and confirms all of the Trusts concerns, and the ongoing flood protection works that the Trusted raised concerns about where the subject of court proceedings in 2017 when they happened again, (the Trust had suggested working with F&G to develop plans to mitigate the worst aspect of these works, based of similar plans used by another regional council).
Frustrated, I stood for, and was elected to the CSI Council. I wanted to find out 'what was going on' and why they wouldn't co-operate when so many of our fisheries were in strife. Yet still the road block existed, seems no one was going to tell CSI what to do. What I found out was that there was no governance processes (there was a governance policy, dated 2004, still in draft and not followed), the newly elected council was given no opportunity to review the strategic goals for the next 3 years and beyond as you might expect, - you can't review something that doesn't exist, in-fact, once, when I questioned them about governance and why it wasn't happening, blank looks and shrugging shoulders was the answer - they didn't do governance. The annual operation plan was presented to the council, obviously not based on the councils input because there wasn't any, and was approved. The tail was wagging the dog flat out. Along with the lack of processes, there where questions of conflicts of interest. Licence holders where not being represented as they were entitled to expect that they should be. But more disappiontingly was the complete lack of a coherent plan of action at the coal face with our lowland fisheries declining at a rapid rate.
This is how one of our best small fisheries is managed ... time and again with a bulldozer blade...
This trustee has invested a large amount of time in trying to get CSI F&G back on track. Some improvements have been made, a strategic plan developed, new governance policies, and more recently a new 10 year plan. The CE had his first formal 'annual performance review' ever. But largely the belligerence1, group-think2 and 'siege mentality'3 of the old guard stopped real progress. You can have nice new shinny governance policies and plans, but if they are not followed and implemented then nothing actually changes. Latterly after the 2021 election, again there was an opportunity to move forward with many new councilors, however it soon became clear that the council was becoming increasingly dysfunctional, several resignations followed as councilors, included this one, decided they had had enough. As of April 2023 I understand the infighting continues, another councilor has resigned, however there may be one bright spot with the appointment of a new CEO. We can only hope he can up the performance of this much faltering organisation.
1 Belligerent - hostile and aggressive. "the mood at the meeting was belligerent"
2 Group-think - the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making.
3 Siege mentality - a defensive or paranoid attitude based on the belief that others are hostile towards one. "once you develop a siege mentality, anything is believable"
Trustee Future Rivers Trust