Inflaming the debate are suggestions that the applicants do not have historical links to the area and could prevent people from diving, anchoring or accessing the area.
Local hapu chairman, Hugh Rihari, denies these claims and emphasises that only commercial fishing will be automatically banned from the Mataitai.
“It is our customary obligation to manage the area for the benefit of all people who want to use the Bay. A Mataitai is not like a Department of Conservation no-take-forever marine reserve, so there will be no confiscation.”
A management plan is under development by the committee. New fishing by-laws can be considered but any proposals will need to be publicly advertised, consulted, then approved by the Minister through a separate process.
Mr Rihari continues, “our hapu have genuine concerns for the fish and want to be given the opportunity to practice our tikanga and help restore the fisheries. It is not in our collective interest to exercise customary rights to the detriment of the local community because most of our sustenance fishing is under the amateur regulations not the customary rules.”
Sonny Tau, Chairman of Te Runanga-Iwi-O-Ngapuhi and Accord co-chair, attended the last consultation hui, where there was only one objector amongst fifty people. The commercial cray fisherman suggested shifting the Mataitai boundaries to accommodate his business however, his available fishing area dwarfs the 7.6 sq. nm proposal. Crayfish 1 stretches from the Hokianga Harbour on the west coast, east past Cape Reinga and south to Whangarei.