Iwi calls Crown on consultation but backs Kermadecs marine sanctuary

Galapagos sharks, a common sight around the Kermadec Islands, where seabed fishing has been banned for many years
MALCOLM FRANCIS/FAIRFAX NZ

Galapagos sharks, a common sight around the Kermadec Islands, where seabed fishing has been banned for many years


​A Northland iwi is calling on the Government to guarantee Maori fishing rights aren't wiped out if the proposed marine sanctuary in the Kermadec Islands goes ahead.

Te Aupouri says the Crown showed a "disappointing" level of consultation over the plan, contacting its chairman Riki Witana just a matter of hours before the sanctuary was announced at the United Nations by Prime Minister John Key last September. 

The "level of discussion and involvement was vastly inadequate," Witana said.

However, he supported the sanctuary, saying it was "ground breaking" and that Te Aupouri would be included in the sanctuary's governance.

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There were no fish hooks in Te Aupouri's support, but Witana said it did not want Maori fishing rights around the islands to be "extinguished unilaterally".

"The Kermadec Islands are where we fished, repaired our waka and took respite and refuge on our ocean voyages. It is a place where, in contemporary times, we have fished.

"Each and every iwi in Aotearoa have rights to fisheries in the Kermadec region through the Māori Fisheries Settlement."

He acknowledged that the iwi's views were its own. Legal action is already underway from Te Ohu Kai Moana (TOKM), the Maori Fisheries Trust, which has filed in the High Court to prevent the Government establishing the sanctuary, 1000km north-east of New Zealand

Under the Government's proposal, the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would close off 620,000 square kilometres to fishing and mining, covering 15 per cent of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

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TOKM's argument hinges on the 1992 deed of fisheries settlement, which guaranteed the Crown would consult iwi and their agents on fisheries and ecosystem management. 

​Earlier this week, Environment Minister Nick Smith hit out at the consultation criticism, saying he contacted iwi the day before the announcement as a courtesy.

"I do not claim, and have never claimed, that that was consultation."

Tuna fishing leader Charles Hufflett​ of the Solander Group said everyone supported the sanctuary but the lack of consultation set a grave precedent for areas outside territorial waters.

"Inside the 12 miles, the new MPA [Marine Protected Area] bill set before Parliament says it will consult, you've got to talk to everybody but the Government said outside, they'll make up their own mind and not consult.

"So it's far broader than just the Kermadecs. There's a serious matter of principle here.

"If you don't, you're going to collapse the whole integrity of the quota management system." 

The sanctuary plan targets migratory "pelagic" species, mainly tuna, on their way through to the Pacific, where there was huge overfishing..

TOKM had already introduced a "benthic protection area" over the Kermadecs in 2004, meaning that bottom fishing or trawling was banned.

Maori had given those rights away and Hufflett said they were "justifiably upset" to have to give up their rights to surface fishing as well. It was not a sustainability issue, it was purely "bragging rights" for the Government overseas.

Academic and Ngai Tahu elder Sir Tipene O'Regan​ has also voiced concern this week that the sanctuary was in principle "dangerous" to iwi fishing rights.

"Where does it stop?" he said. "You can see the Auckland Islands fishery, the Southern Ocean fishery, the Ross Sea fishery...you can see all those coming in for the same kind of treatment."

Outlining Te Aupouri's reasons for its support, Witana said the iwi backed the sanctuary from the perspective of kaitiaki (Maori guardianship).

The iwi had had an ongoing relationship with the Kermadec Islands and ocean region "since the beginning of time, as have other iwi".

"The Kermadec sanctuary does not have to be one thing or the other. It can achieve the protection measures desired by the Crown as well as respect and recognise the rights and interests of iwi and Māori."

 

 - Stuff

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