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Hui Article

Non-Commercial Fishers Progress Their Common Interests

by Steve Radich

16 November 2005


This article was originally published in the Northern Advocate on Nov 16 2005

A recognition that the Ministry of Fishery's commitment to proportionalism is at the heart of the many of the injustices dealt to recreational fishos was just one of the many matters considered when the Hokianga Accord met at Waimamaku last week. The fourth in a series of meetings held throughout the north over recent months to further the common interests of Maori and Pakeha non-commercial fishers, the Hokianga Accord has received official recognition by government as a legitimate voice for the local recreational fishing community.

At the heart of this community of interest lies recognition that, like all other recreational fishers, the vast majority of Maori fishing is recreational. The legal definition of "Customary Fishing" being limited only to fishing with special permits secured for specific events such as tangi and hui or funerals and meetings.

A preference to classify their subsistence fishing as non-commercial rather than recreational has been adopted by this Accord. Maori especially feel some discomfort with the legal definition of being recreational fishos, since they mainly fish for food rather than sport, or in the unforgettable words of the most able Ngapuhi leader and Accord Chair, Sonny Tau: "My mother taught me never to play with my food."

The hui brought together members of a wide range of recreational fishing groups such as the national lobby group "option4", the Recreational Fishing Council, the National Big Game Council and The Whangarei Trailer-Boat Club, as well as tribal representatives of Maori commercial and non-commercial fishing interests from around the North Island.

A keen interest by Iwi other than Ngapuhi in this ground-breaking process acknowledges that Ngapuhi are leading the way in the fight to enable their people to catch fish for a feed by securing more fish in the sea.

During the course of the hui it was acknowledged by all parties that fisheries management tools such as Mataitai and Taiapure, given to Maori in settlement of Waitangi Treaty Claims, provide some of the best avenues to securing the common goal of more fish in the sea.

With a Ministry seeming hell-bent on looking after the interests of the commercial sector at the expense of all non-commercial fishos, there was even recognition that Maori, now with over 50% of the commercial fisheries in their hands, have the opportunity to reduce their commercial catch to enable their people to catch more kai moana.

A further meeting for the Ti Tii Marae at the top of the Bay of Island's Mangonui Inlet was tabled for some time in February next year. During the intervening months, the Accord will encourage the progress of local Fisheries Management Plans for further consideration at subsequent meetings.

A unique sense of good-will and collective solidarity between Tangata Whenua and Tau Iwi [Maori and Non-Maori] was a major outcome of this developing dialogue. And in recognising that the strength of numbers bodes well for success, the Accord ended on an especially buoyant note.

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