Fisheries website seeks to change culture

New fisheries website launch held back as ministry restructures

A new Ministry of Fisheries’ website that is expected to provide improved engagement for stakeholders, recreational fishermen and interested members of the public, is “all ready” to go public, says national fisheries operations manager Jonathan Peacey.

However, there has been a delay due to the restructuring of the ministry under the National-led government

Once the details of the restructuring have been announced, the website, named simply Infosite, will be launched within weeks, says Fisheries performance and evaluation manager, Josh Masson.

The challenge, Peacey told the audience at last month’s GOVIS conference, was to change a culture of centrally-based management and risk aversion and to ensure the right information gets to the right people at the right time.

The second objective is an important element in the first, but also a significant goal in its own right. “We were going to support our staff and stakeholders with the best fisheries information management system in the world and we were going to do it on a pretty small budget,” says Peacey.

A core aspect of the site is the database on the state of the various fisheries. This has taken biological and financial information, which was previously available only in “dense technical reports”, and places it on the website in summarised form with a capability to drill down for further detail if needed. Information on 80 species and 500 stocks is included.

Another section of the site is aimed at the Ministry’s science group, which was using email to get information out to its 500 staff in 14 working groups. There was an urgent need in an area the ministry hadn’t planned to approach for some while longer, Peacey says. “So we had a look around the internet and for $US300 picked up [Telligent’s] Community Server, put our banner on it and turned off most of the features because we considered they were a little anarchic for a conservative government department.

We kept the basic document management and meeting notices functions and the science group loves it.” The science group provides most of the basic data that Fisheries uses, so putting up a forum for that group was a good management move; it helped get support from an influential group.

A page has been created for each fishery with pertinent statistics showing, for example, what proportion of fish are being taken commercially, recreationally and for Maori customary purposes.

A unified contacts database for Ministry staff has been included. For such a development, Peacey says, it is crucial to demonstrate to staff the new database works well before asking them to ditch their old personal databases. Incomplete and inconsistent as these often are, “people become attached to them”.

Being built on an existing product, the contacts database was developed in PowerBuilder for economy; the rest of the site uses .Net.

Stakeholders and interested members of the public will be able to access data in a number of ways. They can identify themselves as, for example a commercial or recreational fisherman or a chef and will be shown information relevant to them. Or they can identify what they want to find out and the data will be shown in that way.

The information management system has supported cultural change in the ministry, Peacey maintains. Such simple procedures as stakeholder participation in online forums and showing a picture of the staff responsible for each fishery, is aimed at changing attitudes in the relationships between stakeholders and Fisheries staff.

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