Periodically someone proposes trout farming in New Zealand.
The arguments are always the same, and fail to take into account the political and commercial implications of trout farming.
Trout farming motivates a very committed and large voting block of New Zealand anglers.
With 200,000 plus license holders they are powerful block that vote on a single issue and can alter elections.
This means there is a serious impediment to getting ministerial approval for a law change, let alone getting it through Cabinet or Parliament.
A minister knows that they will lose every trout angler's vote if they permit trout farming.
They will likely face a well-funded and aggressive campaign in their electorate and against their party.
They do a raw political calculation. "Do I put my career at risk by allowing trout farming?"
Trout fishermen include many very wealthy people who are very clear that they will spend any amount of money necessary to prevent it.
Contrast this to potential farmed trout customers. Being able to buy trout is not an issue that turns out voters. It is not an issue that finds people willing to commit cash to campaigns for.
Those seeking a law change to allow trout farming face another problem.
Commercially trout farming is not particularly lucrative, so any decision to invest in attempting to change the law needs to be balanced with cost of changing the law and the potential profits from trout farming.
A long and involved legal process fighting to gain trout farming licenses will be extremely expensive.
A multi-year lobbying project, ongoing court cases with angler groups who will take decisions through to the Supreme Court, will burn vast amounts of cash for an uncertain result.
Investors in potential trout farms need to consider whether this expensive fight is going to return value to their shareholders or trust members.
They run the risk of burning cash that could have been invested profitably elsewhere, and being held accountable for the predictable losses incurred through trout farming.
Anyone considering law changes to permit trout farming needs to do a thorough risk analysis of the political environment.
When they have completed that they need to do an even more thorough analysis on their own position if they invest other peoples money in trout farming and then fail to gain licenses.
Both these factors suggest that trout farming will not be happening in New Zealand any time soon.
- Simon Lusk is a committed fly fisherman from Hawke's Bay.