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Independent Article

Pakeha - Maori Solution to our Shrinking Fish Resource

by Tim Donoghue

13 July 2005


This article was originally published in The Independent on 13 July 2005

Sonny Tau, leader  of the nation's largest iwi, Ngapuhi, has challenged Pakeha recreational fishermen to work with Maori to preserve diminishing inshore fish stocks.

This co-operation could give Pakeha fishermen access to marine reserves otherwise barred to them.

The aim was  to ensure fisheries are replenished rather than fall victim to commercial fishing, Tau said. He suggested Pakeha work within a Maori customary regulations framework.  

Too much emphasis was placed on commercial fishing interests, Tau
told the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (NZRFC) annual
meeting in Wellington on Saturday.

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission had looked after Maori commercial fishing interests well since the 1992 Maori fisheries settlement, he

Above: Sonny Tau addresses the NZRFC AGM in Wellington, July 2005.
(Photo courtesy of Sam Mossman and the NZ Fishing News.)

But the 107,000-strong Ngapuhi iwi needed more fish in their coastal waters to meet the daily requirement of feeding their families and hosting guests in appropriate customary fashion.  

He said Maori and Pakeha commercial fisheries managers were interested only in the bottom line.

"They seem to have forgotten about their obligations to the social and cultural well-being of us, the people."   

A recent hui of non-commercial fishing interests, held at Whitiora Marae, Te Tii, Waitangi, had agreed the answer was clear:  "More fish in the water."  

Maori needed to work with  recreational fishermen under the legislative  umbrella of customary fishing regulations established in 1992.  

Mataitai, or Maori-managed local fisheries in waters of cultural significance, can be created under these regulations. Maori can exclude commercial fishing operators from a mataitai.

A mataitai can also take  precedence over marine reserves, which are otherwise no-go zones for fishermen.  

Marine reserves are a thorn in the side for many Maori and Pakeha recreational fishermen, who object to Department of Conservation plans to tie up 10% of New Zealand exclusive economic zone in reserves.

Maori held the key to alternative, effective marine protection, Tau said.  

"The sooner the NZRFC, the public, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries accept this, the sooner we can get on with the program of protecting our marine environment for the benefit of our mokopuna [grandchildren]," he said.  

" Ngapuhi are of course willing to share this possibility with other categories of non-commercial interest holders, but the choice lodges with you," he told recreational fishermen.   

"This is our only opportunity to have some degree of control over the management of our inshore fishery."  

Fisheries Ministry deputy chief executive Stan Crothers said the ministry was starting talks with about 75 iwi to see how they intended to implement customary fishing regulations.  

Crothers said Tau 's call to recreational fishermen to work with Maori was echoed by other iwi.  

NZRFC spokesman Max Hetherington said the mataitai concept attracted recreational fishermen. He said Tau had indicated in his speech he would entertain the notion of community management of a mataitai.  

Tau had flagged the possibility of Pakeha as kaitiaki - guardians or customary fisheries officers - of mataitai in Ngapuhi waters.   

"Welcome to the world of the Maori. I hope we can be of assistance to each other."

Ngapuhi will address the issue at a further hui this month.



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