For some reason, the Ministry for Primary Industries is one I don't know much about. Maybe it's me: I tune out whenever the news shows a pasture, full of pollen, far removed from any place with good restaurants.

In this week's news, MPI gave a contract to monitor the fishing industry, to the fishing industry. And why not? The fishing industry knows where all the boats are. They're in the best position to know where to put the cameras. The only thing they didn't say was: "There's plenty of fish in the sea."

But isn't that like replacing speed cameras with an honesty system?

Imagine if the IRD took this approach, and performed audits by sending you a letter that said: "You are to be audited. Please tell us if you pass."


The fishing industry response is that they are shocked - shocked, I tell you - that anyone could question their character. Why, it would make no sense for a commercial fishing boat to exceed quotas. If they did, there would be over-fishing. Fisheries wouldn't replenish. Dolphins would be killed. And in the big picture, commercial fishing wouldn't want any of that.

But if human history is any clue, humans are exactly like that. We do things that are positively damaging to ourselves. We eat until we have diabetes. We smoke until we die. We drink alcohol until our bodies vomit it out. Whenever someone says: "Why would I do that," the answer is: Well, that's folks for ya.

Take athletes. Why on earth would an athlete cheat? The drugs might kill them. But that distant prospect isn't as important as the short-term result.

And now more than ever, quarterly income is always more important than the big picture. Which is why in all these commercial sectors, governments need to regulate.

Thinking that fishing companies wouldn't over-fish, because it's bad for their interests, is like thinking that oil companies wouldn't pollute the oceans because it's a waste of oil.

And as a species, we will eat an animal until there's one left, and then eat that one.

And the reason we'll eat the last one is because we're thinking: if we don't, somebody else will. This is a general human attitude. Take speeding. Each of us is happy to speed, but we really think other drivers shouldn't.

This week, Australia hit the headlines for doctoring Unesco reports about the Great Barrier Reef. Australia is shocked that anyone could question how much they love the Great Barrier Reef. Why would they not look after it? Surely they love it more than anyone.

Makes sense, right? But look at the evidence. The coral is so bleached you'd think it's the White Australia policy.

And while we judge Australia for that, we're polluting our waterways the same way.

But it's hard to get worked up about the environment. It's not personal, or visceral, like some parents losing their kid at a zoo.

Nuclear what?

"Should a US Navy ship come to NZ?"

This was the wording of an opinion poll this week, which received a "yes" vote of 75 per cent.

But was this an opinion poll or a test of general knowledge?

How many people who took part were clueless that under NZ law, nuclear reactors and weapons are forbidden in our territory? And that this has been consistent NZ policy maintained by every government since the days of David Lange?

I don't mean to pick on millennials, but it wouldn't surprise me if there's a generation, old enough to vote, who simply don't think of nuclear (power or weapons) as even a thing.

If they've heard of weapons of mass destruction, they might picture poison gas, allegedly harboured by Saddam Hussein, but not the big daddy of all mass destruction, the nuclear missile. They might see no imaginable reason why a US Navy ship shouldn't come to NZ.

The 80s seem distant. Caring about nuclear weapons is something from the olden days, when people had unruly body hair and protested about apartheid. For some, like our PM, this is so long ago they can't even remember what side they were on.

In the 70s and 80s, the fuss about nuclear power focused on accidents at nuclear power plants. And maybe nuclear power plants are better designed now. But so are solar panels. And wind turbines.

And what are you going to say to the military? Obviously, the only way to stop a bad guy with nukes is a good guy with nukes.