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Make Maori fishing fines work

Make Maori fishing fines work

ACT Fisheries spokesman Gerry Eckhoff and Justice and Sports spokesman Stephen Franks today urged that iwi and hapu be held responsible for abuses of customary fishing privileges.

“The recently announced new penalties will otherwise be meaningless in many cases. The announcement looks like an election smokescreen,” Mr Eckhoff said.

“Offenders’ fines are pathetic in comparison to the damage they’ve caused. Then they are not enforced because of cries of poverty. Community work sentences are a joke. The value of fish makes dodgy permits all too tempting. So seed-stock is stripped that should remain for the benefit of everyone. Slogans about guardianship yield to self-interest.

“Maori highlight the collective or communal nature of their fisheries interests. Their bag limit exceptions flow from that group membership. They’re getting a collective right, so the sanctions and costs of abuse should be collective as well.

“Bringing the cost home to the ‘owner’ and controller of the privilege also makes enforcement sense. Iwi and hapu would have incentives to deliver their own justice to those who cause them loss. Only this would justify continued self-regulation of the privilege,” Mr Eckhoff said.

Mr Franks pointed out that it is consistent with the accountability demanded of pakeha collectives.

“Companies are fined when their directors and employees break the law. When a company truck is overloaded, or someone lets a pollutant escape from company land, the company is liable, not just the company agent or representative.

“Iwi and hapu should have the same defences as companies. If they satisfy the court that the offender was not authorised by them, they shouldn’t be penalised, unless they knew or ought to have known what was going on in their name. A convicted individual should lose eligibility to issue future permits on behalf of anyone.

“Effective penalties on iwi and hapu could include cancellation of the right to issue customary take permits or collecting unpaid fines by forfeiting quota allocated to the iwi by the Maori Fisheries Commission. This would be a fair equivalent to the forfeiture of boats and gear that other fisheries offenders suffer,” Mr Franks said.


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