New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council

  • Tau Henare
Maori Affairs



Like you, I am a fisherman, albeit a novice, and have spent many a weekend tossing a line out in various parts of the country. So it gives me great pleasure to be in familiar company here today.

I wish to address this conference today on one of the key initiatives for fisheries in the Coalition Agreement - the completion of the Maori non-commercial customary fishing regulations.

As New Zealand fisheries management moves towards a property rights-based environment, I suspect that the recreational sector will face similar issues that have presented themselves in the process of developing the customary fishing regulations Maori customary fishing rights have been well documented and have been protected in fisheries legislation since 1866.

In the mid 80s the Courts ruled that the Government could not introduce the Quota Management System (QMS) for managing New Zealand's fisheries without addressing the legitimate rights of Maori.

Two settlements have now been negotiated that provide for customary Maori fishing rights. The first settlement established taiapure - local fishery areas.

The second settlement - the Sealord Deal - addressed Maori claims for commercial fishing rights and provided for the making of regulations to recognise and provide for customary food gathering by Maori.

As some of you may be aware, the promulgation of the North Island regulations are nearing their final stages. The South Island regulations have already been publicised.

The regulations provide a legal framework for the taking of fish for customary purposes and gives iwi, hapu or whanau, the opportunity to manage customary fisheries according to their tikanga in a sustainable manner.

I'd like to say at this point that a vast majority of iwi Maori would like the new regulations enacted as soon as possible. While there are some minor issues to work through, I'm heartened by their support for this.

The Government recognises that while it has a responsibility to protect Maori rights under the Treaty, it must also govern in the interests of all New Zealanders. The regulations are designed to be compatible with the other fisheries management systems used in New Zealand.

There's a need to strike a balance between the customary non-commercial rights of Maori; the rights of commercial fishers to take their commercial entitlement in the Quota Management Area; and the ability of non-commercial fishers to fish locally.

Based on submissions received on the regulations and media comment I consider that there is a misunderstanding by the wider community as to what these regulations provide.

People need not be afraid of these regulations. They're not going to be locked out of the fishery. The regulations contribute to defining what rights and responsibilities abound to what sector.

The actions of a few must not flavour your perception of the whole. Despite the flagrant disregard for the law some cowboys have shown for their own political purposes, iwi Maori have publically demonstrated their distaste for those who wish to test their patience on these issues and I'm confident iwi Maori have the interests of all fishers at heart.

These regulations should be seen as an opportunity to provide for localised management that will benefit the community as a whole - Maori and non-Maori - and enhance the state of the fisheries. They will also ensure that those that do flout the law are appropriately dealt with.

To put it in a nutshell there are three types of fisher rights: one that wears an All Black jersey; another with a moko on its chin; and one with a dollar sign.

For Maori, the issue is what sort of sign would you care to hang around their necks. I'd argue Maori are all three.

Customary fishing regulations for the South Island have already be implemented and I note that Ngai Tahu will be providing a presentation on these tomorrow.

However, a recent news item about this very topic caught my eye. And it was how Ngai Tahu issued a customary food gathering permit to a non-Maori.

This demonstrated to me that Maori are willing to work co-operatively with their communities and I don't imagine it's an isolated case.

There are many instances where non-Maori may be issued with a customary fishing permit. Whether they be gathering for customary purposes on behalf of a marae. They may have Maori family and need seafood for a family function.

Or they may just be a member of a local community - many local communities are close-knit communities - where little distinction is made between Maori and non-Maori.

Furthermore the regulations themselves provide for local community involvement, through consultation on the establishment of mataitai reserves, and on proposed by-laws.

What is important is that the customary regulations are able to provide for the customary practices of different iwi, hapu and whanau. The regulations do not define customary fishing practices or prescribe how customary fishing activity is to be undertaken The regulations contain a series of accountability mechanisms to assure both tangata whenua and the Government that customary fishing activity is being carried out appropriately and sustainably.

The Coalition Government is committed to sustainability as the underlying principle in managing fish stocks on behalf of all New Zealanders.

I am personally supportive of these regulations as they provide a means of contributing to the long term sustainability of the fishery both nationally and at a local level. They should be viewed for the potential benefits they offer local communities to contribute to localised management.

Maori customary fishing rights have existed since time immemorial, and the Coalition Government is committed to providing for these rights through these regulations.

When it comes to fishing rights I'm no different from most of you sitting in this room today. I want to go where I want to; take what I want; and enjoy the spoils of my graft around the dinner table that night.

Recreational fishing is fun, challenging and certainly very gratifying that at the end of the day, all you want to know is that your ability to enjoy it isn't being impeded unnecessarily so by the bureaucrats.

I don't think we are. There simply lies a question over the sustainability of having the sort of fun people like you and I enjoy.