Waiheke Island rāhui over concern for kaimoana officially recognised

7:45 pm on 30 November 2021

Auckland iwi Ngāti Pāoa are relieved that their calls for a rāhui to be placed around Waiheke Island have finally been heard.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island Photo: 123RF

The iwi first decided to place the rāhui back in January in response to years of concern regarding the depletion of kaimoana and the health of the Tīkapa Moana- Hauraki Gulf.

This week the ministry for oceans and fisheries (MPI) officially recognised the temporary two-year closure, responding to the iwi's request to ensure the future of the gulf and its biodiversity could be addressed.

Under the closure, four species of kaimoana will be covered by a fishing ban which includes restrictions on scallops, mussels, crayfish and pāua.

Ngāti Pāoa spokesperson Herearoha Skipper said they were happy the rāhui had been recognised before the Covid-19 protection framework or traffic light system began this Friday.

This meant that protection measures for the Hauraki Gulf could be laid down before an influx of people arrived.

"We are expecting a lot of activity during that time [over the holiday] so I'm glad that we were able to get the announcement from the minister before the busy season," Skipper said.

"We'd like to come from a Māori world view, we've had scientists for many years and the moana has been managed by the Crown for 200 years."

Despite the 10-month delay in reaching a finalised response, Skipper said the iwi had maintained a close and productive relationship with MPI.

In order to make sure the measures for the rāhui were introduced properly, a large amount of the year was spent carrying out public consultation, she said.

MPI had consulted with other iwi in the area as well as Waiheke Island locals so that the emphasis on compliance was respected and carried by everyone for the next two years, she said.

"Putting a rāhui around a whole island can involve a lot of consultation," Skipper said.

"The submissions were back in March/April and fortunately we were able to receive all the submissions and review them and provide feedback.

"After reviewing the submissions and getting some really positive responses, I was quite confident and at least I knew that there was good support from the Waiheke community and from Ngāti Pāoa."

More importantly for the iwi, the rāhui opened the possibility of restoring and revitalising what has been lost due to pollution, over-fishing, and climate change related issues.

Skipper said their kaumātua had been particularly disheartened that the Hauraki Gulf was not what it once had been, and they yearned for the future generations to be able to collect kaimoana like their elders had years before.

"The rāhui is around the concern from our kaumātua around no longer being able to go out and gather our kai.

"We're thinking about future generations, our mokopuna will probably never experience what I had as a child to go gather kai because it's no longer available.

"These four species that we've put a rāhui on tipa (scallops), kūtai (mussels), kōura and pāua are near functionally extinct."

'It's so seriously depleted'

Waiheke local board chair Cath Handley was also elated by the news because she had seen report after report detailing the shocking state the moana was in.

She said any protection measures would make a difference, and she hoped that they would start to see some signs of regeneration within the next two years.

"I have seen it firsthand; I've been snorkeling in a study to have a look at what's there and it's so seriously depleted," Handley said.

"Some stocks are so depleted that they might need re-seeding.

"Locals are being asked to keep an eye out themselves and to report anybody taking those four species, we would very much like government to resource this and to ensure there is some fisheries staff cover in our waters."

Fisheries New Zealand director of fisheries management Emma Taylor said public consultation on the rāhui indicated that much of the public were supportive of the fisheries ban, and they hoped the rāhui would help the recovery of the wider ecosystem.

"We received 244 submissions with the majority supporting a closure. Closing these fisheries will help these important fisheries recover and support the health of the wider ecosystem," Taylor said.

"The feedback from tangata whenua and the public highlights concerns around the long-term sustainability of these four important fish species. Closing these fisheries is just one part of the solution.

"It's great to be able to support iwi by ensuring the closure is respected through regular patrols by MPI Fishery Officers."

The rāhui applies to the whole surrounding inshore area of Waiheke Island out to one nautical mile and will cover customary, commercial, and recreational fishing.

Ngāti Pāoa were looking forward to harnessing a mātauranga Māori approach towards protecting the tīkapa moana area and collaborating with other iwi and experts too.

MPI have said they would continue to work alongside Ngāti Pāoa to ensure precautions under the rāhui were followed in accordance with section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996

The two-year temporary ban will begin from 1 December.