Top of the South iwi unanimously oppose recreational fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds

Last updated 17:13 15/09/2016

Boats moored near Waikawa in the Marlborough Sounds.

People fishing off the jetty at Shelley Bay in Picton.
A proposed recreational fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds has been rejected by top of the South iwi on the grounds it encroaches on their customary and commercial fishing rights.

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Iwi across the top of the South Island have unanimously rejected a proposal to create a recreational fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds.

The group of eight Te Tau Ihu iwi have released a paper with recommendations for the government, establishing baseline requirements that would need to be met for them to support the proposal.

The move to ban commercial fishers from the Marlborough Sounds was announced earlier this year under proposed legislation, the Marine Protected Areas Act, which is being developed to replace the Marine Reserves Act.

It has been met with widespread criticism, led by claims there has been no substantive research to establish the extent of the recreational catch, with critics saying it will lead to increased pressure that could deplete the fishery.

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Iwi have made submissions on the policy before, but the release of the Te Tau Ihu Forum Working Group Report is the first joint statement from all groups with customary rights in the area.

The report, produced with input from government departments, says iwi do not support the Marine Protected Areas legislation or the proposal to create a recreational park in the Marlborough Sounds.

"The establishment of the proposed recreational fishing park will considerably impact on iwi ability to continue customary practices and maintain and sustain mana," the report said.

"This is not acceptable and is inconsistent with Treaty settlement legislation recently enacted."

Te Tau Ihu Forum Working Group Report recommendations to government:

1) Recognition and inclusion of Te Tau Ihu iwi Deeds of Settlement Acts and entitlements, and Treaty rights and interests.

2) Protection of Maori customary practices, customary non-commercial and commercial fishing rights of Te Tau Ihu iwi.

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3) Compensation for loss of iwi commercial fishing opportunities.

4) Monitoring and recording of all fish harvested by recreational fishing boats, which includes chartered fishing vessels.

5) A requirement for chartered fishing vessels to purchase quota to operate in the Marlborough Sounds.

6) Te Tau Ihu iwi representation on the advisory group to manage the proposed recreational fishing park.

7) Provision in the boundary of the recreational fishing park for mataitai to be enacted under the new Marine Protected Areas legislation.

8) The Marlborough Sounds Recreational Fishing Park to have a term of 10 years with a right of renewal for a further 10 years.

The working group report was discussed with Environment Minister Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy at a consultation meeting with iwi members on Wednesday.

Te Tau Ihu Fisheries Forum chairman Richard Bradley said the meeting was a positive step in the consultation process.

"The meeting included some robust discussion on the merits of establishing and managing a fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds," he said.

Under the Maori Commercial Fisheries and Aquaculture Settlements, Te Tau Ihu iwi had significant commercial developments in the Sounds, which Bradley said the proposed park would jeopardise.

"You can't give people a settlement right and then start setting up special reserves all around the coastline to prevent them from exerting it," he said.

Te Atiawa o Te Waka a Maui chairperson Glenice Paine said the proposal for the recreational park included provisions for customary rights, but these would be undermined by the increased pressure from recreational fishers.

"If this park is the place to go for recreational fishers, doesn't it flow-on that there will be increased pressure on the kai moana and marine resources," she said.

"So even though we retain those customary rights, there will be less resources to gather, if anything at all."

This would damage the mana of Te Atiawa in their role as kaitiaki, or guardians, of the Queen Charlotte Sound, which was something the proposed legislation did not take into account, she said.

"The Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel are our food baskets, so if we're not able to gather kai from there that seriously impacts on our mana as kaitiaki.

"That's more important to us than the decreasing revenue from customary commercial fishing, the ability to practice kaitiakitanga, which includes customary fishing, is of utmost importance to us."

Paine said the idea of compensating iwi for the loss of customary commercial quotas in the Marlborough Sounds did not take into account long-term effects, such as the loss of traditional knowledge and ongoing revenue streams.

Commercial and customary fishers were sometimes vilified as the cause of the declining fisheries in the Sounds, but they were the only groups that had to record their catch, which made it easier to manage resources, she said.

 A spokesman for the Environment Minister said the government was considering submissions on the discussion paper it put out about the proposed recreational parks.

"It is not possible to put a timetable on the work at this stage but it is continuing to progress," he said.

In response to a question about the lack of research into recreational fishers and their impact on the fishery, the spokesman said population growth and improved fish-finding technology meant pressure was growing regardless of whether the park was implemented.

"It is important to note that a lack of information about our marine environment in general, should not be a trigger for inaction," he said, adding the government had reasonably good estimates of the recreational catch.

"Customary fishing will not be affected by the proposed park, and as part of the wider Marine Protected Areas reform iwi rights and interests will be recognised and protected."

"There have been discussions with iwi on the proposal and these will continue."

The Te Tau Ihu iwi are: Ngati Apa ki te Ra To, Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama Ki Te Waipounamu, Rangitane o Wairau, Te Atiawa o Te Waka a Maui, and Ngati Toa Rangatira.

- The Marlborough Express


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