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Fact Sheet: Customary Fishing


Customary fishing rights and the 1992 fisheries settlement

What was the 1992 fisheries settlement?

- On 23 September 1992 the Crown and representatives of Maori signed a Deed of Settlement settling Maori interests in commercial fishing and making provision for statutory recognition of Maori customary non-commercial fishing rights. The Deed was given effect by the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992.

- The settlement had two main parts.

- A settlement of all claims to commercial fishing rights which included the transfer of capital and significant commercial fishing rights to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, for later allocation to iwi.

- Recognition of ongoing customary non-commercial fishing rights, and an undertaking to develop systems to protect these rights.

Do customary fishing rights continue to exist?

- Yes. These rights were not extinguished by the settlement or the 1992 Act. Section 10(a) of the Act states that, in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, customary fishing rights continue to give rise to Treaty obligations on the Crown.

- The rights have now been given explicit statutory recognition. The Settlement Act required the Minister of Fisheries to develop policies and regulations to recognise the use and management practices of tangata whenua and the special relationship between tangata whenua and places of customary food gathering importance.

- The Crown and Maori worked together in the following years to develop a legal framework for the ongoing protection of customary non-commercial fishing activity.

- Customary non-commercial fishing rights are now protected by:

- Regulation 27 of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986.

- Two sets of customary fishing regulations.

- The ability to establish taiapure - local fisheries under the Fisheries Act 1996.

- The ability to establish mataitai reserves under the Fisheries Act 1996.

- Annex 1 provides information on the implementation of the customary fishing regulations to date. Annex 2 provides information on taiapure and mataitai reserves.

Regulation 27

- This regulation enables tangata whenua in a particular place to exercise customary non-commercial fishing rights until they implement the comprehensive customary fishing regulations.

- It provides a defence against the general provisions of the amateur fishing regulations. Fishers must be able to demonstrate that they are fishing for the purpose of a hui or tangi, and have been authorised in accordance with the conditions in Regulation 27.

- It does not give tangata whenua the same degree of management authority as provided for by the customary regulations and mataitai reserve provisions.

Customary Regulations

- There are two sets of customary regulations:

- The Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998 became law on 20 April 1998.

- The Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998, for the rest of the country, became law in December 1998.

- Both sets of regulations are essentially the same. The main difference is that the South Island regulations apply to the taking of fisheries resources in freshwater as well as the marine environment while the Kaimoana regulations only apply to marine resources. The regulations do not apply to areas reserved as Marine Reserves.

How do the customary regulations work?

- The customary fishing regulations provide for the devolution of management authority for customary non-commercial fishing to tangata whenua.

- Under the regulations, tangata whenua must first nominate kaitiaki (guardians) who will be responsible for issuing customary fishing authorisations, and specify the boundaries of their rohe moana (coastal marine area) within which the kaitiaki will have jurisdiction.

- Names and rohe boundaries are notified to the Minister, and the Minister then places a notice in the local newspaper and calls for submissions.

- Any disputes regarding who should be kaitiaki or over boundaries are referred back to the parties for resolution in a manner consistent with tikanga Maori and agreed to between the parties. The Minister appoints the nominated kaitiaki if no disputes arise or when disputes are resolved.

- Further information is available at:

Taiapure-Local Fisheries

- Taiapure are local fisheries areas. They can be established over areas of special significance to tangata whenua.

- Once a Taiapure-local fisheries area has been established, a management committee is appointed on the basis of nominations from the local Maori community. Taiapure management committees may recommend the making of general fisheries regulations to the Minister of Fisheries for the management of fish within the taiapure area, including regulations relating to commercial, recreational or customary fishing. Seven taiapure-local fisheries areas have been established to date (see Annex 2).

Mataitai Reserves

- Mataitai reserves provide for hands on management of all non-commercial fishing activity on traditional fishing grounds by kaitiaki, through the making of bylaws.

- The mataitai reserve provisions provide a tool for tangata whenua to ensure that there will always be areas with a sufficient abundance of fisheries resources for customary purposes. There is generally no commercial fishing permitted within mataitai reserves.

- The application and establishment process for mataitai reserves requires consultation with the local community and stakeholders, and the regulations contain a number of criteria for the Minister's decision on whether or not to approve a particular reserve.

ANNEX 1: Implementation of customary fishing regulations

Gazetted Kaitiaki appointments in the North Island

Tangata whenua group

Regional area

Gazetted coastal boundaries

Gazetted seaward boundaries

Number of kaitiaki

No disputes/

Disputes resolved

Taiamai ki te Marangai

Bay of Islands


Waitangi to Takou Bay

Out to 200 nm


Disputes resolved

Nga Hapu o Aotea Moana

Aotea harbour

Aotea harbour



Disputes resolved

Te Whanau a Maruhaeremuri

Eastern Bay of Plenty


2 nm


Disputes resolved

Ngai Tai

Eastern Bay of Plenty


3 nm


No disputes

Potaka Marae Committee

East Cape

Midway Point to Potikirua Point

12 nm

Potaka Marae Committee

Dispute resolved

Te Whanau a Hungara

East Cape

Awatere river to Opure

Out to the Ranfurly Bank

Matahi-o-te-Tau Marae Committee

No disputes

Ngati Konohi

Whangara north of Gisborne

Waihou Beach to Tatapouri Pt

Out to 200nm


No disputes

Kaitiaki a Moremore

West of Napier

Waikare River to Bluff Hill

Extending out to include Pania Reef


Disputes resolved

Kairakau Land Trust

Southern Hawkes Bay

Huarau to Ouepoto Strm

200 nm


Disputes resolved

Ngati Kere

Southern Hawkes Bay

Ouepoto Strm to Akitio Rvr

Out to include

Nth and Sth Madden Bnks


Disputes resolved

Te Hika O Papauma


Poroporo to Whareama Rv

12 nm


Disputes resolved

Gazetted Kaitiaki appointments in the South Island

Tangata whenua group

Regional area

Gazetted coastal boundaries

Gazetted seaward boundaries

Number of kaitiaki

No disputes/

Disputes resolved

Ngai Tahu groups

Most of Sth Is excluding Nelson, Marlborough

All of Ngai Tahu rohe apart from small area in Canterbury

Out to 200 nm


Disputes generally resolved in-house

Outstanding Kaitiaki notifications


North Region

Central Region

South Region

Total notifications in progress



13 plus a number of reappointments, cancellations etc.

Number of those that are in dispute



2 (around Ngai Tahu northern boundary) and several from Ngai Tuahuriri hapu

ANNEX 2: Implementation of taiapure and mataitai reserves

Taiapure-local fisheries areas established to date

Location Date established Location Date established
Waikare inlet, B. of Isds 29/9/97 Porangahau, Wairarapa 4/6/96
Maketu, Bay of Plenty 21/3/96 Palliser Bay, Wairarapa 13/4/95

Other taiapure established to date are in:
- Kawhia Harbour,
- Karitane, North Otago
- Delaware Bay, North Nelson

Mataitai Reserves established

Location Tangata whenua Date established

Lyttelton Harbour Te Hapu o Ngati Wheke Rapaki (Ngai Tahu) 1999
Koukourarata, Banks Peninusla Te Runanga o Koukourarata (Ngai Tahu) 15 December 2000

Mataitai Reserve applications in progress

Location Tangata whenua Date applied for

Ruakokore Te Whanau a Maruhaeremuri
Ngai Te Ruruku O Te Rangi
(Kaitiaki a Moremore) June 2000
Waitutu (Southland)
Oraka Aparima Runaka February 2001
Moeraki (Otago) Te Runaka O Moeraki March 2001

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