Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie responds to a recent ODT political column which questioned her attack in Parliament on whitebait management.

As a born and bred Southerner I take my job as MP for Invercargill very seriously. My aim is to ensure the people of Invercargill are represented strongly in central Government, and I'm focused on delivering the very best for them.

When an issue pops up that has the potential to seriously affect my constituents then I will fight for it.

I am fighting hard against the Government's short-sighted tertiary education reforms. The Government has refused to back down and has gone ahead with an overhaul that punishes well-performing polytechnics such as the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) by merging them all together into one big mega-polytechnic. This is going to cost hundreds of jobs and Southland employers have told me they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics.


SIT is in touch with local business needs in the community and is training the skilled and semi-skilled as apprentices, helping them grow, succeed and gain meaningful employment. These damaging reforms would have never happened under a National government, and National have pledged to return polytechnic assets and decision-making back to communities and the regions.

As National's spokeswoman for conservation I'm also defending the rights of recreational fishers as a result of the currently progressing legislation that would sneakily ban whitebaiting in New Zealand.

This is an issue that I'm passionate about with both my Invercargill and conservation hats on. It has long been a Southland pastime to go whitebaiting in rivers such as the Mataura, Titiroa and Aparima.

This is all in jeopardy as a result of what are in my opinion the minister's sneaky reforms, and her Indigenous Freshwater Fish Amendment Bill is legislating to prohibit whitebaiting after a one-year transitional provision. The minister has been deliberately obtuse when questioned on this detail and has instead pointed to her adjacent Whitebait Consultation Process, which the whitebaiting community have told me they feel has been a farce.

What the Bill actually says is that it will add "a transitional provision that would allow whitebaiting in conservation areas for the first year after the Bill's enactment. We consider this a suitable amount of time for officials to consult on whether it would be appropriate to authorise continued fishing.'' This clearly outlines the intention of the Bill to wind down whitebaiting through a one-year transition period, before it is prohibited barring further intervention. If the intention wasn't to prohibit whitebaiting, this clause would not be entered into the Bill.

Whitebaiting is a Kiwi tradition for many New Zealanders, it puts food on the table, creates livelihoods and is a popular recreational pastime. The whitebaiting community has already subscribed to voluntary protections of the fishery to assist its sustainability moving forward, and deserve to have their say on these regulations.

I've started a petition to save the activity of whitebaiting in New Zealand and I encourage you to sign it here