Chance to Prove that Kaitiakitanga is an
to Marine Reserves
5 April 2006
article was originally published in the Barrier Bulletin April
The good turnout
at Motairehe marae showed the importance given by the tangata
whenua to the issue of the proposed marine reserve. And
also Pakeha from the island community found themselves on both
sides of the powhiri that began the hui . The
manuhiri that were welcomed were led by a group of Ministry
of Fisheries staff. They had come from Wellington and Auckland
for a long-planned consultation meeting to be held independently
in the last stage of the DoC application for a marine reserve
at the northern end of Great Barrier Island.
here to listen openly to the views of tangata whenua "
Stan Crothers, the deputy Chief Executive of MFish, said as soon
as he had a chance to speak. He introduced himself, as the other
30 attendants had also done, by talking of his personal background
and reasons for coming here. Thirty years with MFish and still
passionate about managing fish, he explained. Shortly afterwards,
one of the tangata whenua , commercial fisher Brian Pearson
confirmed that. As one-time enforcement officer with the Ministry,
twenty years ago Pearson had gotten to know Crothers as a credible
appeared to be in need, as a number of speakers stood up and expressed
lack of faith with the government processes, and the Department
of Conservation in particular. Rawiri Wharemate tried to explain
that this reflected a generally poor experience with government
agencies not carrying out open-minded consultation but purely
following obligatory procedures to 'tick the box'.
a lack of trust. Tangata whenua have a traditional kaitiakitanga
role, a care taker role for natural resources. If you are
here as a partner – try us. We want to talk, we want conservation,
we also want power to develop own self-reliance. Let's see if
we can find trust in each other's belief systems."
From the outset
the men and women that stood up put the marine reserve into the
local context. "On a map of New Zealand it is just a drop, but
to us it is huge,' Mathew Ngawaka, a commercial fisher said. Another
added that, 'Because of its location, there are fish one cannot
get easily elsewhere and then only in the fishing grounds of others,
making us feel like thieves if we go over there.' Hapuka and the
stories of fishing for them, symbolised this well to several present.
we here, on Great Barrier Island, be punished for the commercial
over-fishing by foreign operators that the government has allowed
in New Zealand waters?" asked Don Ngawaka.
who lives adjacent to the proposed reserve area, saw himself unequivocally
as tangata whenua in this issue. "We do not fish for
fun but to put food on the table," he said. "That's not for recreation,
but basically customary fishing. A marine reserve here, will just
put more pressure on other areas."
"It is just
unnecessary, since alternative tools are available to achieve
sustainable management." he added." Several others made reference
to proposals to DoC for alternative reserve areas or customary
management, mataitai , but without having received a
sense that they were seriously considered.
were there also to make the point that the message to the Ministry
of Fisheries would come not simply from Maori but from those concerned
about how government marine resource management was disadvantaging
non-commercial fishers. "I am here to express support for the
tangata whenua opposing the marine reserve and being
excluded from their kaitiakitanga role." Scott Macindoe
said, a previous resident with on-going connections to the island,
and speaking from the option4 perspective, an interest group active
on behalf of Pakeha and Maori non-commercial fishers.
The term kaitiakitanga
, at least in the words of the RMA, describes the exercise
of guardianship by the tangata whenua of an area in
accordance with tikanga Maori in relation to natural
and physical resources; and includes the ethic of stewardship.
But it was
not only about fish that would no longer be available. "I find
it outrageous, that we even have to stand here and defend our
right, and most importantly, the right of our children and their
children, to do what has been part of our upbringing," said Martin
Cleave, an Auckland-based film producer. As the head negotiator
for marine reserves on GBI, mandated by tangata whenua, he presented
extracts from a detailed submission he had prepared for the Ministry.
the assessment of 'customary fishing' as something that could
be reduced to figures and then leaving it open to interpretation
by the Ministry. "If you want to know how much fish we take, then
I would tell you: Enough." He concluded by saying: " This marine
reserve application as it stands, alienates tangata whenua
from it's rohe moana and our ability to exercise
our most fundamental rights and obligations as rangatiratanga
and kaitiakitanga ."
It was clear
that a lot of emotions had been provoked which challenged the
MFish team to translate that into the fair assessment that Crothers
had explained was the purpose of their visit: evaluating the potential
impact to customary fishing as guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi
and the Fisheries Settlement Act, also known as the Sealords Deal.
In a final statement, Crothers attempted to sum this up: "I heard
speakers today express a sense that the proposed marine reserve
is stealing the very essence of what it means to be tangata
whenua ." Afterwards, he said that it is planned to have
completed a formal briefing to the minister by June. "This Concurrence
Advice Paper will also be available to the public," Crothers emphasised.
"After that it is a judgement call by the Minister, which may
or may not be made immediately."
the newly appointed chairperson of the Ngati Rehua ki Aotea Trust,
had prepared some words to close the hui and to sum
up the views expressed by kaumatua and other speakers.
It came back to fundamental responsibilities of rangatiritanga
and kaitiakitanga, related to self-determination, sovereignty
over natural resources and taking care of the interests of future
generations, she explained. "There are alternatives to marine
reserves. We are asking for chance to work together to prove that
kaitiakitanga can be the best practice."
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