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Mataitai reserves: seabed-foreshore by stealth

Phil Heatley MP
National Party Fisheries Spokesman

13 August 2006

Mataitai reserves: seabed-foreshore by stealth

National’s Fisheries spokesman, Phil Heatley, is questioning the Fisheries Ministry’s active promotion of mataitai reserves to Maori.

“Ever since the seabed-foreshore legislation was passed the number of mataitai claims has mushroomed,” says Mr Heatley.

“The mataitai reserve strategy is all part of the Government’s seabed-foreshore backroom deal, alongside their ‘bribe for silence’ involving 20% of aquaculture space. Mataitai reserve designation is seabed-foreshore control by stealth, giving rights to Maori that other Kiwis don’t enjoy.”

Mataitai reserves are traditional fishing grounds where tangata whenua manage all fishing in an area. Generally, there is no commercial fishing within reserves and recreational fishing is heavily controlled. Maori can write and enforce bylaws at 15 days notice that cover:

- The species of fish that can be taken

- The quantity of fish that can be taken

- Size limits

- The method by which species are taken

- Any other matter the Tanga Kaitiaki/Taiaki sees fit.

“Only one reserve was gazetted before Labour took office, yet five have been gazetted since, and 11 are currently in the pipeline. Most of these applications hit the table immediately after the seabed-foreshore issue was ignited by the 2003 Court of Appeal Maori coastal title decision.

“The extraordinary size of the reserves being considered - one is 715 sq kilometres - does not reflect the original intent of the law.

“Mataitai reserves were intended to be small, discrete areas of traditional importance near coastal marae. How can some of these mataitai proposals be tagged traditional fishing spots? Hundreds of square kilometres is not a ‘spot’.

“Why is the Ministry actively door-knocking marae trying to sell the concept? With the Ministry leading the charge, I’m concerned any proposition will get there.

“Mataitai reserve applications should be suspended or deferred pending more thoughtful consideration of what local communities, including Maori, want,” says Mr Heatley.


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