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Proposed Government Changes Undermine Settlement

Proposed Government Changes Undermine Treaty Settlement

One of the very few ways for Maori to actively participate in the New Zealand fishing industry is being jeopardised by the Government’s proposal to significantly increase the wages on foreign charter vessels, says Ngapuhi.

Ngapuhi, New Zealand’s largest iwi, through its joint venture company has chartered foreign fishing vessels for over 10 years. Ngapuhi is not in a position to invest in its own deepwater catching capacity and the foreign charter vessels provide Ngapuhi, and other iwi, the opportunity to participate in an industry with the quota it received as part of its Treaty settlement, Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi Chief Executive Teresa Tepania-Ashton, said today.

To enable Maori to participate in the business and activity of fishing was the stated aim of the allocation of quota to iwi under the Treaty Settlement. The proposal by Government to increase the wages of the crews on the foreign charter vessels flies in the face of that aim and could very well have the effect of relegating Maori to the role of bit players in a fishing industry that would be dominated by a few large companies.

In an industry already suffering dramatic fuel cost increases, weak international prices and a strong New Zealand dollar the proposed changes could very well signal the end of chartered foreign vessels. With these foreign charter vessels gone iwi such as Ngapuhi would have no way to catch their own quota and would be forced to lease that quota to the remaining large fishing companies. The demise of the chartered fleet would cause quota lease prices to plummet as quota supply exceeded the ability to catch that quota impacting not only on the annual income that quota generates for iwi but on the very value of the quota itself.

“Our settlement was based on both a sustainable value for the quota we received and on the understanding that we would be able to participate in an industry that is of critical importance to Maori. This proposal threatens both of these principles and we will be looking to renegotiate our settlement if the changes are legislated,” Ms Tepania-Ashton says.

The General Manager of Ngapuhi Fisheries, Geraldine Baker, asks: “Is the Government proposing to legislate the wages paid to the workers in China and India who manufacture the lion’s share of the clothes for New Zealand clothing companies?”

The viability of the chartered fleet is critical to Ngapuhi’s fishing aspirations and to those of the industry as a whole. This type of heavy-handed Government intervention is totally unacceptable in a modern democracy. Far from helping Maori achieve self-determination the Government is proposing to consign Maori to the sidelines, Ms Baker said.

ENDS

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