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Hui Report Nov 2005

Customary Fisheries Delegate Report

by Stephen Naera

16 November 2005


Amended for web publication 20 12 05

Tena koutou katoa

Well this month I have some interesting news, as I attended the fourth Hokianga Accord Forum Meeting at Te Whakamaharatanga Marae. After listening to all the korero I was able to actually start to really understand the extent of the problem with our fishery at this present time and the role of the Forum.

Firstly, our fishery, which means the Hokianga Harbour and outside, are part of an area that the Government manages, on all New Zealanders behalf. They call this whole area, which is nearly all the west coast of the North Island, Area 8. At this moment without going into fine detail, it is in a very bad state. The snapper 8 fishery has been OVER FISHED to the extent that the snapper stocks are at half the level it should be, when measured at their lowest point. The measure is a level the Government lets us fish the stocks down to, to supposedly make the fish naturally be able to maintain the fishery, sustainable fishing they call it. It was said at this meeting, that should we have a naturally bad breeding season now, it could damn near destroy the lot.

So having realised this, the Government's plan of action, is to stop everybody from taking so much fish. Good you say, but the way they propose to do it seems unfair considering the people who created this mess – the commercial fishing companies, seem to benefit the most from this proposal.

Yes, the Government has got itself into a bind by firstly creating the Quota Management System.

Secondly, it then allocated this quota to commercial interests based on historic catches, so if they cut their quota which they have been allocated, the commercial fishermen are going to get pissed off and possibly sue the Government. So the Government looked elsewhere to where they can make cuts, and are now looking in the direction of those who have not bought quota, yet still take fish. Guess who that is, yes right again – you, me and everybody else who fish, but don't purchase quota to do so.

Proportional Allocation

Firstly, they propose to introduce a system called Proportional Allocation. Before they do this they are going to limit the amount of fish we take to a set amount, "capping" they call it.

Secondly, they will reduce equally the amount of fish the different types of fishermen can take. Government classifies, these, as COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN, RECREATIONAL FISHERMEN and CUSTOMARY FISHERMEN. They propose to reduce the amount we can take equally.

And then if the fishery recovers, increase the amounts equally. On the surface this seems fair, but look at other factors such as, who has been trying to conserve, and those who have not, and you will understand why this proposal is unfair to non-commercial fishermen and would not increase the amount of fish in the water – the ultimate goal.

Excessive Fishing

In recent years the amount of fish allowed to be caught, by non-commercial fishermen has been reduced while commercial fishers have carried on and over fished their allowable amounts. So while most of us have been conserving, the money boys have been making heaps of profit, and at our expense, you could say.

The Government's proposal will benefit the commercial fishers more, because as I said, the Government will reduce the amounts we are allowed to catch again, to implement this latest idea, which means we have had two or three cuts in recent times and the big boys have had none.. And if the fishery recovers from this method, they will increase the amounts equally, remembering that this means more quota for sale to the commercial sector.

The reality for most of us who are recreational fishermen is that the fishing has gotten that bad in recent times that we can hardly have a good days fishing now, it almost maintains the status quo except there's less fish now.

Yes, we conserve and if it gets better we all get an equal increase. The Government will get their money for selling their quota, the big boys will come in and decimate the fishery again, and we will miss out again. When we all know that the real problem is the excessive fishing by the commercial sector.  

And yet we suffer, all because of the money the Government gets for its quota and, of course the money for the commercial sector.

At the moment the fishing companies dump about three times the amount that customary fishers even catch. So if the snapper fishery increases, the possibility exists for the companies to dump more non-quota species to get more snapper, and reduce our chance of catching more snapper as well as other species.

So in the end, to make a long story short:

Recreational and customary fishermen don't stand to get more decent fishing conditions. We also do not, on the whole, have the means, eg. Boats etc to compete for what fish there is now, so limiting commercial fishing is what we really need to, and it is, at this time, the only option.

Maori Management Tools

So a possible solution, is for all our hapu to sign up to some of the management tools the Government has, and, in my opinion, try and lock the commercial fishermen into catching only the amount they are legally supposed to be taking.

The tools available now are mahinga mataitai and taiapure; they allow Maori to participate in management.

With the support of other New Zealanders, we could theoretically stop the rape of our resource by fishing companies, as commercial fishermen cannot fish in mahinga mataitai without specific authority from us. These tools are by no way perfect at the moment, but I believe the Government is trying to include the public, by trying to pass the buck to different organisations eg. The Forums.

So – Maori could possibly help solve this problem, even though it will be a challenge. It's better to have tried than not tried at all. So this is what the Forum advise the people to do – set up under the mahinga mataitai regulations and they are offering their support to try and achieve this, in the way of technical support, and an advisory role in fishing management, and at the same time lobby Government for change in the laws.

Race for Space

Also impacting on this kaupapa is Government plans, under the umbrella of the Department of Conservation, to have 10% of the marine environment protected namely by putting in marine reserves, which if put in place, stay there forever without you being able to ever use them to gather kaimoana of any kind. Also, even though it has not been discussed at the hui I have attended, I know that future plans for marine farming, "aquaculture" they call it, will have impact on these issues, as space will be made available for this, and also generates money for the Crown or district councils. So if we don't put our own reserves in place first, under customary regulations things could happen in our area. So be aware how these things impact on our ability to manage our fisheries.

Anyhow, what was really important at the hui is that Maori and other New Zealanders have a better understanding of each others feelings about these issues, and the common goal of all concerned, is to put more fish in the ocean by way of sustainable management practices, and also a lot of Pakeha at the hui, have a better understanding of our Maori culture, which can only, in my opinion, be beneficial to us all.

Some of the obstacles in setting up these tools in the past, has been that the Crown has set it up in such a way that any objections from almost everybody who has an interest in the fishery would make the chances of setting up a mahinga mataitai slim, as the law says it cannot adversely affect recreational or commercial fishing interests.

However, with a lot of Pakeha coming on board, after seeing what the Government is about, the barriers are, I think coming down, and we are more likely to get their support than their opposition, if we include them in our management practices, from the start. There are about twelve forums nationwide in the beginning stages and the chairmen of those other Forums who attended the hui, now want to set up like Ngapuhi – all working together – Pakeha and Maori. If this occurs, the Government would possibly be forced to act.

So to finish I am suggesting that:

  1. The Takiwa consider at this stage, to have a close look at promoting customary management tools, and even lead the push to do this.
  2. We also encourage total community involvement, and by total, I mean Maori and other New Zealanders.
  3. We also support the direction of the Forum, remembering that participation in the Forum is open to everyone.

The next hui of the Forum is proposed for February next year at Tii marae, time and date as well as the location is yet to be confirmed.

Remember at our December meeting Graeme Morrell will be giving us a talk on customary tools, as well as a talk on proportional allocation, and maybe marine reserves, and how they will impact on us.


Kia ora mai tatou katoa

Stephen Cassidy Naera


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