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option4 Update #65 NZFN Dec 2005

Unique Forum

NZ Fishing News
December 2005



This article was originally published in the New Zealand Fishing News January 2006 edition.


Unique is how the Ministry of Fisheries has described the Hokianga Accord, a forum of non-commercial fishing representatives from Ngapuhi, Ngati Wai, Ngati Whatua, the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council and option4.

The Hokianga Accord met again in November and certainly made encouraging progress, Steve Radich covered the hui in last month's NZ Fishing News, and page 22 of December's edition is worth reading.

The Hokianga Accord was originally intended to be one of eleven regional customary iwi forums around the country but the Accord has determined it wants to be inclusive of all non-commercial fishing interests, both Maori customary and recreational. This certainly makes sense considering the majority of fishing by Maori is classified as recreational.

Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau said it all when he made the statement, " 99.99% time Maori go fishing we are categorised as recreational fishers when we go fishing to feed our whanau. The only time we are customarily fishing is when we have a permit".


One of the highlights of the latest hui was the understanding and acceptance of the fact that Maori did not want to "claim" all the fish and pakeha were not out to stop Maori claiming their customary fishing rights. Customary rights are clearly established in law as is everyone in New Zealand's right to fish in the sea, regardless of race.

Those at the hui heard how these fishing rights are under increasing threat from overfishing, mismanagement by the Ministry (MFish) and the failure of the Minister to address unfair allocation processes. Proportional allocation of fisheries resources, where all sectors get an equal increase or (more likely) decrease in their allowance, is being promoted by MFish as being their preferred way of distributing the amount of fish that can be caught. The consensus was that this new policy has to be resoundingly rejected and consideration given to improving management so we can achieve the Hokianga Accord's goal of "more fish in the water".


Proportional Allocation

The Minister's most recent decisions for important shared fisheries such as kahawai, snapper, flounder and grey mullet are examples of the unbalanced nature of fisheries allocation in New Zealand. Catches for both kahawai and snapper have been reduced proportionally with no acknowledgement given to recreational fishers who have conserved in these fisheries and excessive commercial fishing which has created the need for a cut in catches.

The commercial quota for flounder and mullet in area one, from Taranaki around to East Cape, has never been caught in 19 years! Despite this and the overwhelming concerns expressed by non-commercial fishers in their submissions to the Ministry, the Minister decided he would rather leave the quotas as they are than risk facing compensation claims from commercial fishers.


Fisheries Act

Proportional allocation of fisheries is not a mechanism included in the Fisheries Act 1996 so therefore has no legal foundation. Section 21 of the Act provides for our interests,

(1) In setting or varying any total allowable commercial catch for any quota management stock, the Minister shall have regard to the total allowable catch for that stock and shall allow for -

(a) The following non-commercial fishing interests in that stock, namely-

(i) Maori customary non-commercial fishing interests; and
(ii) Recreational interests; and

There is no two ways about it, the law requires the Minister to provide for people's non-commercial fishing interests before he considers the commercial catch. option4 do not believe these latest decisions are fair or just.


The Truth

When the Ministry promoted proportionalism in the Soundings document five years ago, a record 60,000 plus people said no. They recognised this management regime as being an unjust way of allocating fisheries. The truth was revealed by a MFish representative, when asked what the objective of the Soundings process was Jenni McMurran said that it was to constrain recreational catch and avoid compensation issues for the Crown. A stunning but truthful revelation of why Ministry were, and still are, promoting proportionalism.

Now it seems the Ministry is intent on changing the law to legitimise proportionalism. Recent conversations with MFish staff reveal the engagement of Dr Robin Connor to scope the Intersectorial Allocation Policy project. Discussions in the New Year should reveal more.

Proportionalism is a dangerous experiment that could see the people of this country lose their fishing rights as described in section 21. The public would end up with the leftovers of a commercial fishery.


Vigilance Required

All fair-minded New Zealanders should feel concerned about this new proposal to change the Fisheries Act. Under the proposed proportional system the Ministry of Fisheries would remove themselves from allocation decisions and leave commercial and non-commercial fishers to develop Fisheries Plans collaboratively. The Ministry and Minister would then be able to avoid their responsibility to the people of this country including tangata whenua.

The Hokianga Accord clearly understands proportional allocation does not satisfy non-commercial aspirations for fisheries and is working to achieve a more reasonable regime to manage fisheries so there will be "more fish in the water" for future generations.

If you have never been to a hui, now is a great time to consider it. The Accord welcomes your input and participation. The next hui is scheduled for March 2006, please call 09 8186205 or 0274 506065 for more information.

Email hokianga@option4.co.nz

or visit the web



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