Tribute to Sir Douglas Myers (1938 - 2017)

Dr Randall Bess
Insights Newsletter
13 April, 2017

Sir Douglas Myers, well known and respected for his business and philanthropic interests and recognised as such, died this last week at the age of 78 after a long battle with cancer.

Sir Douglas was also known for his lifelong passion for fishing. With considerable enthusiasm, he would talk about having fished for more than 70 years from Whitianga to North Cape.

His keen interest in fishing was the impetus for The New Zealand Initiative’s fisheries project. As the Research Fellow for this project, I was fortunate to hear first-hand what fishing was like during Sir Douglas’ earlier years and what he considered was needed to improve fisheries. 

He once said “The fish numbers and sizes today in comparison to 60 or 70 years ago are pathetic; there has been a very substantial decline – unless the fish have got cunning and our skills have not progressed!”

Sir Douglas considered the decline in fisheries cast a sombre light on New Zealand’s ability to keep public policy relevant. “But, for me it’s about the most interesting issue I see in New Zealand.”

He stated clearly “I’m sure the fish stocks are overfished, and there is much wastage when maximising catches during spawning, and very poor regulations that lead to destructive behaviours, not just by commercial interests, but Maori and recreational too.”

Sir Douglas considered the solution for the snapper fishery was to seriously reduce catch levels during peak spawning. He would often say, “For a farming nation, it doesn’t make sense to kill stock just as they procreate, or to target the bigger ones that procreate the most.”

He did not have much confidence in the big fishing companies, nor the officials and politicians placed to safeguard the public’s interest. He considered “Ours is not a government driven to bold policy leadership.”

Instead, he held out hope that New Zealanders would realise what they can do to improve the situation. “I only hope there will be enough who are prepared to push for change, and that the new government will respond by showing some courage and leadership to get the job done.”

The New Zealand Initiative is grateful for Sir Douglas’ longstanding service, support and his foresight in establishing the fisheries project.

Please support this project in his honour by joining in upcoming debates about what is possible and what solutions will work best.

Nicholas Kerr has written a tribute to Sir Douglas, detailing his passion for public policy and involvement with the New Zealand Business Roundtable, on The New Zealand Initiative blog.

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