Maori seek reassurance on customary rights

6:52 am on 14 January 2016

Maori are demanding assurances customary fishing rights will not be extinguished by plans to create marine protected areas.

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Photo: Ministry for the Environment

Iwi from the Marlborough Sounds and the Hauraki Gulf are opposing the Government proposal, under which new recreational fishing parks will be created in their waters.

Large parts of the area earmarked for a recreational reserve in the Marlborough Sounds includes land acknowledged in treaty settlement to have special ties with Ngati Toa.

Iwi chair Matiu Rei said there was no certainty over the effect the proposed Marine Protection Act would have on the tribe.

"It is not clear that the government has taken into account what Maori rights are, as they have been established through the fisheries settlement and the treaty settlements."

The government said it would consult with all iwi in Marlborough but Mr Rei said it should be speaking directly with Ngati Toa.

Waikato-Tainui spokesman Donovan Clarke said iwi should have been at the table from the beginning.

"The key thing is to continue to talk together at the same table at the same time, rather than one side developing a proposal and then putting it out to the other side for their thoughts and comment."

At the end of last year, the Iwi Leaders Group came out in opposition to plans to develop the Kermedec Ocean Sanctuary.

Group member Willie Te Aho said the same principles were at play.

"This goes to the heart of the settlement where customary rights have been acknowledged."

If a marine reserve was developed which restricted the take of fisheries, then Maori rights were impacted, from a customary commercial and non-commercial view, he said.

Compensation not cutting it

The Government was offering compensation to those whose fishing rights were impacted but 12 iwi in the Hauraki Gulf were not sold on the deal.

Hauraki Māori Trust Board chairman David Taipari said treaty settlements were hard won and that the plan flew in the face of everything they had fought for.

"We oppose our treaty settlement fishing quota being forcibly taken from us and will do what we need to do to stop it.

"Fisheries have always been part of our history since the beginning and we will not be giving that up for anyone. Money is no substitute for what our ancestors handed down to us."

At a hui in Wellington yesterday, Ministry for the Environment spokesman Justin Strang was questioned about the proposals relating to the recreational fishing parks.

He said a recreational reserve excluded commercial fishing but that customary fishing could go ahead.

Maori Fisheries Trust, Te Ohu Kaimoana, chairman Jamie Tuuta heard those comments but released a statement later which said the plan would undermine Maori rights to both commercial and non-commercial customary fishing.

The trust said if it went ahead, it would erode the value of the Maori Fisheries Settlement.

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