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Iwi wants sustainable fishery too

As one of the largest stakeholders in the commercial fishing industry here, Ngati Porou says it is has an interest to maintain a sustainable industry as much as other commercial fishers.

The iwi made this statement in response to concerns that aspects of the pending Nga Rohe Moana o Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Bill (No 2) could jeopardise the industry.

The Tairawhiti Rock Lobster Industry Association (TRLIA) and Gisborne Fisheries both made submissions to the bill at a Maori Affairs Select Committee submissions hearing in Gisborne on Monday.

Through the bill, Ngati Porou is seeking legal customary title of the foreshore and seabed along the East Coast coastline to Gisborne.

If the bill is passed through Parliament and becomes an Act, Ngati Porou will have customary rights such as fishing, and the protection of waahi tapu (sacred sites).

Iwi consent will be required for resource consent applications in the areas over which it has customary title, as well as for proposals such as marine reserves.

Ngati Porou will be able to propose bylaws to restrict or ban fishing for either sustainability or cultural reasons, such as a rahui (a ban on fishing or swimming, such as after a drowning).

The Tairawhiti Rock Lobster Industry Association said if the bill was passed, it would provide opportunities for significant closures of areas, impacting on the industry.

“We’re extremely disappointed at the lack of protection of commercial fishing rights,” said Gordon Halley of the TRLIA.

“The issue is not with Ngati Porou, it’s with the Crown for not recognising our fishing rights.

“How does 70 years of fishing not count as use and occupation? How is use and occupation measured?

“No compensation was paid out when the marine reserve (Te Tapuwae o Rongokako) went in.

“It caused problems to be pushed out to other areas, and it brought the quota down.

“The advice given to us is that it (waahi tapu) is still up in the air. There doesn’t seem to be a commitment on the size of waahi tapu.”

Ngati Porou did not want to disadvantage the fishing industry, said Ngati Porou chief negotiator Matanuku Mahuika.

“We occupy all sectors of the fishing industry – commercial, customary and recreational. We don’t want to degrade the value of quota. We are the biggest quota holder in the region.

“Our people are commercial fishers in this region.

“We’re not looking for any special treatment dealing with property that they (other commercial fishers) have held since 1840.

“There are also property rights on our side.

“Waahi tapu protects that place from intrusion. Burial caves would be classed as waahi tapu. This is not just against third parties, it would include us too.

“A ministerial process needs to be followed before a bylaw is made.

“The minister has to be satisfied that the quota can still be carried out.”

Mr Mahuika said he was confident that the bill was adequate enough that there was a provision to sort out issues.