The huge majority of New Zealanders think fishing industry donations to Members of Parliament at the last election have the potential to “strongly influence” decisions the MPs make, according to a poll conducted by Horizon Research.
The poll, which asked more than 1,000 people how much they felt donations by companies with large fishing investments would influence MPs and policy, found 73% saying that any donations by companies with large fishing investments have the potential to strongly influence MPs’ decisions.
Of the remainder surveyed, 11% felt the donations would probably have no influence while 2% only said it would definitely have no influence and 14% were not sure.
The poll was conducted for the non-profit LegaSea organisation, which is advocating for a review of fisheries management to help return abundance to fish stocks.
Some quota stocks are now depleted to as little as 17% of their original levels.
LegaSea’s release of the poll comes after RadioNew Zealand reported the concerns over secret donations to the New Zealand First Foundation. Radio New Zealand revealed one of the country's biggest fishing companies, Talley's, and its managing director Sir Peter Talley donated nearly $27,000 to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party.
LegaSea spokesperson Sam Woolford says there needs to be total transparency over commercial fishing interests’ donations to political parties.
“These donations, done in secret and cynically at monetary levels to avoid being declared, obviously make New Zealanders deeply suspicious about the potential to buy undue influence over-fishing policies – worth billions,” he says.
“The country needs the Government to launch an objective – and inclusive – review of how our fisheries policies are working. We have over-fishing, stock depletion, illegal dumping, bottom trawling destroying fishing grounds, near extinction of endangered dolphins, and no great push to ensure cameras are aboard every vessel to help stop the unsustainable use of the country’s fisheries.
“Collectively finding ways to make stocks abundant again will help everyone – especially commercial fishers,” Mr Woolford says.
Ironically, the Horizon poll found concern over the potential influence of fishing industry donations to MPs was highest among those who voted for New Zealand First at the 2017 election: 88% felt the donations had the potential to influence decisions, 9% felt they would have probably none or no influence. Among National Party votes, 79% felt it would have some influence, 9% probably little or none.
The survey was of 1,046 adults, representing the New Zealand population 18+. At a 95% confidence level the maximum margin of error is +/-3% overall.