People are free to wander down to the seaside to fish at anytime, day or night, with very few restrictions as long as they obey the regulations. No one has to ask permission to fish and folk can take their catch home to feed their whanau.
Fishing is a permissible activity like walking in the park, riding a bike or picking puha. All can be done at a moment’s notice and without the need for a signed permit or requirement to report that activity.
It is difficult to identify a single tangible benefit from replacing the public’s common law right to fish for food with a statutory right and a licencing scheme.
Public fishing provides for the social, economic and cultural well-being of all New Zealanders, and the nation overall.
Exercising the customary fishing right can encompass many positive aspects including bringing whanau together to renew relationships, share experiences and provide food for large community gatherings.
However, the implications of exchanging a broad customary fishing right with a statutory right have been detrimental on some communities.
Maori based in the northern Bay of Islands have been trying for more than ten years to implement an effective local management scheme, but have been hampered by an onerous process and a lack of intent by government officials. Clearly the customary fishing regime has not achieved what was originally envisaged.
If a statutory right to fish for food is the answer then what is the riddle?