A leaked recording of a phone call made by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash confirms that NZ First is controlling critical elements of the Government's fishing policy, Greenpeace says.
In the 2018 recording, obtained by Newshub, Nash explains the lack of progress on implementing the rollout of cameras on fishing boats, taking aim at NZ First MPs.
Nash says he will revoke the regulations putting cameras on almost 1000 boats, before ordering a review into the entrenched problems in the fishing industry.
"By revoking these regulations, first of all people like Winston and the industry will go, 'Oh there, there you go. That's fantastic, that's been done. We don't have to worry about this'," he said in the recording.
"Little do they know behind the scenes the tidal wave on this is coming and they won't be able to avoid it."
But the planned review didn't occur, Greenpeace said.
Russel Norman, executive director at Greenpeace, said the recording was the "smoking gun" that connected NZ corporate fishing companies to Government fishing policy, via NZ First.
"This recording from March 2018 proves what the Government has previously denied: that it was NZ First that blocked cameras on boats," he said.
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"Recreational fishers, environmentalists and all New Zealanders will be appalled by the contents of the leaked phone call in which the Minister confirms that opposition by NZ First, a party bankrolled by the fishing industry, is the reason cameras on boats were blocked."
The previous government and then head of MPI, Martyn Dunne, agreed to put cameras on boats in 2016, after the Heron Ministerial Inquiry found significant problems of illegal dumping and MPI's failure to prosecute this dumping, Norman said.
Cameras on boats were identified as essential to monitor illegal fish dumping and the illegal non-notification of the deaths of dolphins and other animals caught in fishing operations.
Norman called on the Government to remove NZ First from influence over the fisheries policy, citing the party's "history of receiving cash from big fishing companies".
"This leaked phone call makes it abundantly clear that even the Minister of Fisheries privately believes that NZ First was the key decision-maker on blocking cameras on boats."
NZ First leader Winston Peters this morning released a statement in anticipation of the story, calling it "the worst form of unethical tabloid journalism".
"New Zealand First has worked constructively with its Coalition partner on hundreds of pieces of legislation and policy, and cameras on fishing boats is no different," Peters said.
"As the Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash will attest, New Zealand First raised legitimate concerns about cameras on boats, namely their cost and who would be able to access the data.
"It is vital that sound policy has sound implementation – we are not going to be putting fishing boats, crew and families out of business because of thoughtless bureaucracy."
It was Nash's office that asked to delay the introduction of cameras on boats, rather than NZ First lobbying, Peters said.