Agency capture

In New Zealand there are thousands of people who’s job it is to look out for nature. They start their career’s with a love for nature but then commercial priorities begin to disproportionately influence their decisions.

I think it starts of small, New Zealanders are very polite and do not like to “rock the boat”. Employees who don’t question the status quo are more likely to do well in a regulatory agency subject to the whim of government budgets. It’s also just easier to do nothing.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”

– Edmund Burke.

The existing agency culture slowly overcomes the individual, first the words they use, then full blown cognitive dissonance. On the way I bet there are conscious compromises, a given regulator is likely to hear a lot more from industry they they will from environmental groups, they are also far more likely to get a well paid job in industry than an environmental group.

It’s a big problem, it’s built into the system and I do not know how to change it. However when a whistle blower does call our attention to it we need to act swiftly and harshly to remind regulators that they are being watched and that they have a real job to stand up for nature.

This week the Operation Achilles report leaked from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) clearly describes how endangered Hector’s dolphins were killed by commercial fishers in 2012. The deaths were not included in the Department of Conservations reports which are critical in the ongoing management of this species. This is unforgivable especially now that we are down to less the 50 Maui dolphins (a subspecies with similar threats). Another independent study suggests that New Zealand’s total fisheries catch since 1950 is 2.7 times higher than officially reported!

MPI are failing not just to regulate but even to report on the industry. They are no longer able to manage the fisheries with the interests of all New Zealanders. Now marine experts are calling for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to be stripped of its responsibility for monitoring commercial fishing. I agree – the current system is not salvable, we need a new organisation with the right culture to do this job.