< August 2018 newsletter


Mātaitai Reserves - another vehicle for tribal control of the coast

Those seeking to gain control of the coastline are not confined to making claims under the Marine and Coastal Area Act. Although not in the same league as the nearly 600 claims under the Act, there are also a growing number of areas approved as special customary management zones, such as mātaitai reserves, (customary fishing reserves), and taiapure, (local fisheries which give Maori customary area management rights). We are also seeing increased calls by Maori entities for temporary closures and restrictions on fishing methods, and the introduction of fisheries bylaws.

Tangata whenua, or their appointed Tangata Tiaki / Kaitiaki, can apply for a mataitai reserve anywhere within “their” area. When introducing the legislation, Parliament indicated that mataitai would be small discrete areas of special importance to Maori such as reefs and shell beds. But in practise this is not the case. In 1998 Rapaki in Lyttelton Harbour became the first mataitai (about 25 hectares and 2.5 km of coastline). Late 2004 saw an 8000-hectare mataitai declared over Paterson Inlet on Stewart Island. Other large mataitai followed: Moremore in 2005 off Napier (9000 hectares and about 20 km of coastline), Raukokere in 2005 at East Cape (2600 and about 13 km of coastline), and Aotea Harbour in 2008 (4000 hectares and about 45 km of shore line). There are currently 44 mataitai reserves. A list of the whereabouts of mataitai, the area each covers, is available HERE.

Only tangata whenua, or Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki, (local guardian/s), nominated by tangata whenua, can apply for a mataitai reserve in any part of their rohe. The Ministry of Fisheries downplays the effects mataitai applications can have on recreational fishing rights. Recreational fishers are advised that a mataitai “does not exclude recreational fishing” and “does not require recreational fishers to obtain permits or prevent non-Maori from fishing.” But the law regarding mataitai reserves also allows for Tangata Tiaki / Kaitiaki to apply to the minster of fisheries to make bylaws that determine the what, how, when, and where of fishing. This could include recreational fishers being excluded either by species or through a general closure. (Any activity related to commercial fishing is not allowed in mataitai reserves).

However, mataitai by-laws do not apply to fishing under customary rules. Under the legislation Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki have option of allowing customary fishing for marae purposes. And it further states that the needs of the local marae take precedence over those of individual fishers if there is only a limited amount of fish that can be harvested sustainably.

Currently the tangata kaitiaki of the Horokaka Mātaitai Reserve (located near Mahia) are seeking to introduce bylaws to apply to their reserve. The public are invited to provide written feedback on the proposed bylaws to the tangata kaitiaki. Information about the proposed bylaws, and how to have your say, is available HERE. The deadline is 10th August.

Once the tangata kaitiaki has considered any public submissions, it will finalise the proposed bylaws and then ask for approval from the Minister of Fisheries. The minister must determine whether to approve or to reject the proposed bylaws.

Of note in this process is that the public’s submissions are not made to either local body or national Government, as is usual practise when introducing laws, but to the Tangata Kaitiaki, the private interest entity which is proposing the bylaws. Although the Tangata Kaitiaki are required to go through the motions of considering submissions from the public, in reality the Tangata Kaitiaki, being unelected by and therefore unaccountable to the wider community, have no obligation to consider the wishes of the community. This being so, there is some doubt that making a submission to this group is worthwhile. Instead, if you want to have a say, sending a submission to the Minister of Fisheries may be the better option.  The current minister is Stuart Nash.

A copy of a handout with information regarding mataitai reserves produced by the Ministry of Fisheries is available HERE.

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