Editorial: Be prepared to speak up

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 26/06/2014

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OPINION: It is admirable that local Maori want to protect marine stocks around the Timaru coastline.

At least someone is thinking about a long-term future for paua mussels, pipi and fish that are gathered by ordinary folk from the shore.

While government agencies keep an eye on commercial fishing quotas and some specific coastal species, and Fish and Game advocate for river and lake stock, shellfish and flounder can get overlooked.

Unless you are from the local runanga and you notice that stocks are dwindling, which is what those from Arowhenua say is happening.

And so they have applied to set up two mataitai reserves, under a co-guardianship arrangement with the Ministry of Fisheries.

One reserve includes Caroline Bay and up past the Washdyke Lagoon and the other goes from just south of Timaru down to Normanby.

A mataitai reserve is a traditional fishing ground of special importance to local Maori, and Arowhenua first has to convince the ministry that it qualifies. One imagines it would.

Everyone though has the right to make a submission on this.

Step two in the process, assuming the mataitai is granted, is for the runanga to seek views from the public before coming up with regulations to protect certain sealife, which obviously will mean restrictions of some sort.

And that's where potential conflict could arise.

The Arowhenua runanga says everyone has been responsible for overfishing the two areas, but it does point to cultural shifts in the population as putting greater pressure on it.

These include an increase in the Asian and Island populations, both of whom are active in gathering food from the sea. Other regular users may also feel resentment and suspicion about any curtailment of what they see as their right.

But if stocks are being plundered, and presumably the runanga will have evidence of this, everyone should welcome some intervention. There is some protection in any mataitai being in a co-guardianship arrangement with the ministry, but the most important protection will be up to local users.

If they don't make their views known when the time comes to set the rules, they will have no grounds for complaint afterwards.

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- The Timaru Herald

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