Carp Farm Proposal Stopped By Public Backlash

Carp Farm Proposal Stopped By Public Backlash.

Silver Carp

Silver Carp

The recent Carp Farm “battle” was an excellent example of a community and democracy at work and while it was a local issue (Taupo) it could have been anywhere else in New Zealand where I am sure the outcome would have been the same. What it did show is that if the people do get together and protest they can win against all odds but it needs to include the wider community as it did in Taupo not just one interest group.
Because of my involvement on the executive of the Federation of Freshwater Anglers I was aware of how this proposal was slipping though under the radar and that very few people in the Taupo district were aware of it. The federation was fighting it on it’s own and getting nowhere. Using my position within the newly formed NZ Outdoors Party I put out a press release to the wider media which was generally ignored except by TV3 (One good reason why we should watch TV3) who decided to do an interview with me near where the farm was to be sited.
That interview ended up as second item on the Saturday evening news which then prompted other radio media to take an interest in the issue. You can see that initial news item here on TV3 NewsHub
From that point onwards the people of Taupo rallied, but no matter how much they protested they became increasingly frustrated at not being listened to. Facebook pages were set up, petitions organised and politicians contacted.
Silver carp leap up to 3 meters in the air when disturbed by a boat In this case our appointed leaders and politicians were of no use and they all ran for cover. The Mayor of Taupo had written a letter of support for the proposal so he and his officials just vanished and refused to talk to their constituents about it. They were happy to put the $93 million dollar Per year trout fishery and the future of Taupo at jeopardy in return for 4 jobs. Our local MP Louise Upston supported the proposal and while many wrote to her early in the piece she finally replied at the end when she saw public opinion building “that she was watching with interest”. She is so out of date over this issue that as of 1st April she wrote to the electorate “I am listening to the views of the community, for and against.” She could loose her seat over this.
The greens never responded, so much for their love of freshwater and Lake Taupo, Labour said this was a matter for the minister and left it at that. New Zealand First put out a press release condemning the proposal and moved on. United Future with its leader having a house in Taupo and presenting itself as a party looking after the interest of the outdoors were completely silent. .
After a while some Councillors spoke up and said that the matter had never been bought before council and got in behind the protest. But even amongst their ranks were councillors who still saw it as an economic opportunity for Taupo. Fish and Game who represent the anglers ran for cover and not once responded to anyone’s concerns while the Taupo Fishery staff who manage the areas fishing were hamstrung by their political master being the Minister! .
Our Fledgling Political Party the NZ Outdoors Party continued to be engaged by way of numerous interviews and press articles trying to bring this issue to heel.
The local newspaper was woefully out of touch and it took phone calls and emails to the editor to even get a small bit in the paper about it…. fortunately Taupo does have an independent weekend paper who took up the issue.
The Minster of conservation Maggie Barry was deathly silent throughout the affair but as protest from the public grew louder and louder she eventually started to indicate that the permit already issued was subject to conditions. To me that was the beginning of the back down.
Slowly but steadily momentum built until the Mayor could not ignore it any longer and eventually a public meeting was called. The large hall was overflowing with irate citizens and the mood angry, culminating in a unanimous resolution to condemn the farm and tell the political masters to rescind the permits already given.
It was pretty obvious to the Mayor that he and his staff had made a big blunder. The Maori people were angry at not being consulted and no matter what, they were never going to let this happen.
All the while not one person in Authority came out and and said we will stop it.
Fortunately I was asked to be interviewed on National Radio by Radio Live and I agreed thinking we needed to up the anti and it occurred to me that the land was being leased from Contact Energy so in that interview I pointed out that Contact Energy was a company that spent millions convincing us what good environmental stewards they were and now they were allowing their land to be used for something that could destroy one of the finest lakes in the world. I said in the interview that the the people of Taupo should look to switching electricity suppliers. You can listen to this interview here at Radio Live
Within a day the Spin doctors of Contact energy were in damage control and within two days they announced they would not complete the lease deal for the farm. That was the end of the proposal and Contact Energy should be congratulated for at least realising public opinion was against this proposal and doing something about it. None of the politicians did!
What this did highlight is that it was emotion and commercial interests that stopped the proposal and nothing to do with the facts or our elected leaders intervening and does show us that moving politicians to take action is nearly impossible. They sit on the fence watching public opinion and see reversing any decision they have made as a complete slap in the face and something they will never do unless forced to.
This was a fine example of people power but it took hundreds of hours of time by so many individuals to knock over when all along the people we vote in to look after our interests should have stopped it before it even got started.
All I can say is that with Local body elections due later this year the Carp Farm fight will still be in everyone’s minds and with National elections in 2017 we need to remember how little our current crop of politicians cared and how indifferent they were. But then as night follows day they will be all-over us with more promises and reasons for us to vote for them at election time.
They know we all seem to have very short memories, or do we!

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons

President & Co-Leader Alan has dedicated a lifetime of involvement in outdoors political issues. He’s sat on a number of national body executives, boards, NGO and management groups, including the NZ Professional Hunting Guides Association, Electricorp Environmental Management Board, NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers and the NZ Professional Fishing Guides Association. Many will know him through his website, the hugely popular New Zealand FishnHunt forum.

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