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Maori-Pakeha Joint Co-operation



Maori-Pakeha Joint Cooperation
by Jeff Romeril

February 2006


This article was originally published in the New Zealand Fishing World magazine Mar/Apr edition   2006

Mention in general conversation the subject of non commercial fisheries management with the role of Maori and non Maori in this process as fishers and you will likely evoke all sorts of emotive thought.

Stereotypes abound from the red neck non Maori who accuse Maori of preferential treatment and abuse of the non commercial regulations to similarly strident Maori who accuse non Maori of mismanaging and theft of their traditional food supply. The heat of this feeling is such that there is deep mistrust of each group that is barely contained but for the fear of inciting civil unrest.

So now, how do I extradite myself from these opening words? Simply, that unless both Maori and non Maori get their act together in terms of representation for non-commercial interests and act in unison then both will miss out big time. To act in unison requires common aims and methods to achieve them. Is this possible?

Well yes, and much has already been done with some big steps made by various representatives of both groups. So much so, that the fact we are agreeing and acting on the way forward is making news with documentaries on this agreement being prepared for TV viewing in the near future. The news is not about kahawai or fishing rights which are worthy enough but the very fact that Maori and non Maori can agree on matters of marine fishing management and work together to achieve it.

The process started with a warning from Maori representatives at the Annual Conference of the NZRFC in Whangarei in 2004. Basically unless there was some meaningful dialogue between Maori and non Maori over the direction of non commercial fishing issues then we would forever be dealt with separately by successive Governments to the detriment of both groups and commercial fishers being the beneficiaries of our lack of direction. This was closely followed by a chance meeting between representatives from Ngapuhi Iwi and option4. Introductory meetings were held to discuss issues ranging from the lack of understanding of what customary fishing and recreational fishing means, the inability to catch important species, the growing threat of DOC creating useless marine reserves and of course the kahawai legal campaign.


Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi

option4, NZBGFC and the NZRFC were then invited by the Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi to participate at the inaugural Ngapuhi festival in January 2005.The task quite simple, convince the assembled passer-by that we had something in common regarding the pursuit of these issues with a foremost aim of encouraging support for the kahawai legal campaign. This was an outstanding success as the suspicious assembled crowd went away from our stall either verbally in support or committed to help the legal campaign. Subsequently non-commercial fishing interests, through option4, were then asked to make a presentation to the Runanga Board after which Ngapuhi accepted the challenge to join forces with other non-commercial interests to ensure their ability to put fish on the table remained a reality. It should be noted that from that presentation, the Ngapuhi Iwi joined the kahawai legal case in support of NZBGFC and NZRFC.

Next followed a special hui in April 2005 at Whitiora Marae at Te Tii near Kerikeri hosted by Ngapuhi Iwi for 30 recreational fishing representatives and with other northern Iwi representatives sitting in. This was essentially an introduction for the assembled non-Maori of Maori custom and the importance of the sea to them historically, spiritually and for sustenance.

We in turn were able to provide important information not previously explained on the fishery management process as viewed from a recreational view point. It was at this hui where Raniera (Sonny) Tau the Chairman of Ngapuhi, voiced that they had recently discovered that there were three categories of fishers created in legislation - commercial fishers, recreational fishers and customary fishers.  To fish customarily, Maori need a permit, and went on to say “When we fish to feed our babies we are categorised as recreational fishers.  Therefore 99.99% of the time when Ngapuhi go fishing, we are fishing under the amateur fishing regulations.” Words that have now been repeated many times and is the essence of why Maori and non Maori must work together. Maori do have customary fishing rights but the restrictions on their use restrain them for Marae or special gatherings.


Maori Fishing Interests

Ngapuhi also have substantial commercial quota and a point was raised that they will be challenged about their dual interests in commercial as well as recreational fishing. According to Raniera Tau, his iwi, Ngapuhi beneficiaries have stated categorically that they want fish on their tables rather than overseas or being used as crayfish bait for Australian fishers. Ngapuhi also view the mismanagement of our inshore shared fisheries as a direct threat to their commercial fishing interests.

Powerful stuff indeed but it must be made very clear that this may not be the view of all Iwi, however having New Zealand’s biggest Iwi taking such a holistic view of all three fisheries is very refreshing. The Hui started with the theme of “letting the relationship building begin” and ended with a common goal of “more fish in the water” All agreed that more meetings were required and that additional Iwi should be invited to attend to share the knowledge. 

Next was a series of hui at Whakamaharatanga Marae, Waimamaku, Hokianga with participant groups enlarged to include the Ministry of Fisheries and additional iwi from Te Rarawa, Ngati Wai and Ngati Whatua. There were also representatives from other Iwi forums further south of Auckland observing the hui. The first three hui established a working regional forum called the “Hokianga Accord”. The accords interests are listed as:

  • Non-commercial Maori customary fishing interests
  • Non-commercial recreational fishing interests
  • Maori commercial interests
  • Environmental interests.


Input and Participation

Ministry of Fisheries accepted that they had not sufficiently allowed for Maori input and participation of the fisheries process as required by the 1996 Fisheries Act. They agreed to finance the administration costs and provide extension officers (technical advisors) but stopped short of funding independent consultants.

Considerably more discussion was had on the benefits of a united front when dealing with recreational fishing matters and reaching agreement between Maori and non Maori before submissions on recreational fishing were made to government departments. Considerable time was also spent on unique features available to Maori under the 1996 Fisheries Act and 1992 Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act that non Maori do not have which could benefit both. Many of these features require non Maori consultation and agreement before they can be successfully implemented. These include mataitai, taiapure and temporary closures (rahui). A major task foreseen by the forum when pursuing a plan was educating the general public and converting sceptics about the benefits being universal when using these special tools.

A major outcome of the Hokianga Accord was the unanimous agreement to halt the establishment of proportional allocation of fish stocks by MFish when carrying their management role. This doctrine has no benefit to recreational fishers as it is designed to limit recreational catch and avoid government compensation to commercial fishers. It was also noted that that accord had captured the interest of commercial fishers with public statements of them threatening court action if Maori customary tools prevented them from catching their quota. The next meeting is planned back at the Whitiora Marae in March where the assembled will continue to refine their working relationship and start looking at management measures they could introduce that will benefit all parties to the accord.



To summarize what has happened in the last 20 months. There have been huge strides made in building relationships between Maori and non Maori over recreational fishing matters. It has taken our reps to new levels of understanding of what is important to Maori in maritime matters and how their concerns are very similar to non Maori. Maori have gained a better understanding of their recreational fishing rights and how this fits in with their customary and commercial positions. By jointly addressing our concerns and rights as recreational fishers we tap into far greater resources than if we deal with them separately. Successive governments have continually refused to provide direct financial assistance to any recreational group representing you on marine fishing matters. We have had to finance this ourselves through the likes of NZBGFC and option4. We now have a powerful ally with identical recreational fishing aims who are receiving government assistance. Politics is a numbers game and to have Maori on side on recreational fishing issues swells considerably the overall clout we have.

We also have a very powerful ally in dealing with the over ripe green attitude of our Department of Conservation (DoC) on matters maritime and their view on what is good for us. DoC have a seemingly unlimited supply of resources to justify their position with friendly science. Maori also have increasing frustration that they are being denied application for customary use of the marine environment in favour of the no take forever ideology of DoC. Especially when this is over areas that are prime candidates for meaningful customary management. Two big advantages of customary management are that no marine reserves can be formed or commercial fishing is allowed unless this is agreed by the custodians.

So while we have made some great advances there is still much to do. There are many other forums around the country which we encourage to become united on recreational fishing matters. The use of customary tools and acceptance of them by the public will take confidence they can work for the benefit of both groups and this will largely depend on how they are administered and by what structure. We are well aware there are many sceptics by Maori and non Maori alike who are suspicious of the intent of the other, built up over a life time of preconceived ideas. These will take time to break down. The NZBGFC as group will do its part to contribute to the Hokianga Accord and to participate in other joint forums on recreational fishing matters when asked.


Back to the Hokianga Accord index page here >>


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