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Speech: Sharples - Maori Fisheries Conference

Treaty Tribes Coalition
Te Matau a Maui 4th Annual Maori Fisheries Conference
Napier War Memorial Centre; Monday 6 April 2009
‘Control or be Controlled’

Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs

Just over five years ago, on 1st March 2004, Ngati Kahungunu stood outside this War Memorial Conference Centre in a dramatic protest as part of their strategy to oppose the foreshore and seabed policy proposals of the Labour Government.

Their stand was clear. Control or be controlled.

Ngati Kahungunu coastline covers 515 kilometres, which directly feed into some 86 hapu and ninety marae. All of this coastline; all of these hapu were affected by the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The rest was history; a history where we sought to determine our destiny; to control and shape our future.

On 6 May 2004 40,000 marched in the hikoi to Paremata. On 23 May 2004 over two hundred came to Hoani Waititi marae in Tamaki, to discuss the creation of a new political movement. And on 10 July 2004, in the Whanganui War Memorial Centre the Maori Party had its foundation conference; celebrating the election of the first Maori Party Member of Parliament, Tariana Turia.

And if you were to wonder if there was any significance to the fact that the revolution was born out of these two War Memorial Centres – Napier and Whanganui – I would say to you that the symbolism is powerful.

For in our fight to be self-determining, to control our destiny, we are always mindful of those who have gone before us. In these living, working Memorials; we think back to the citizens who and died in service for our land; and we honour them. We think of the korero around Sir Apirana Ngata’s treatise on the price of citizenship; we strive to uphold the legacy of our ancestors; and we hope that in all of our efforts, the eternal flame is never again extinguished.

This then, is an entirely appropriate setting from which to chart our progress in managing our fisheries and the settlement assets.

Economic Progress and Regulation
Iwi Maori are a powerful, indeed a critical part of the fishing industry. And the fishing industry itself, is one of this country’s largest export earners, and a major employer of New Zealanders.

There is then, no dispute, that iwi are of fundamental importance to the development of marine and fisheries policy and legislation.

And I want to take a moment to congratulate the Treaty Tribes Coalition, for your staunch commitment to the tikanga of mana whenua, mana moana in relation to the allocation to iwi of fisheries settlement assets held by Te Ohu Kai Moana.

Those iwi who comprise this coalition, have a central role as kaitiaki of their rohe moana, in helping this nation achieve success in the integrated sustainable management of the fisheries.

As a representative of the Government, I can assure you that Government is extremely aware of the unique role that Maori play in managing New Zealand’s fisheries.

The Government is committed to the Deed of Settlement and to working with tangata whenua as a treaty partner. Government is committed also to the Quota Management System and to the ongoing value delivered by a property rights approach to managing our fisheries.

The challenge for both sides of the relationship is how Maori maintain the distinctive independent voice of tangata whenua while also contributing as a vital sector within the productive export economy.

And of course, in the turbulent waters ahead we will need the productive export sectors to help drive our economy and lead a recovery.

It is in everyone’s interests to help to sustain a positive and supportive environment for the businesses that make up the fishing industry, from the small businesses in the regions to the large companies.

I want to see government helping our productive sectors to prosper and deliver the results we want for our country. I don’t want to see rules and regulations unnecessarily standing in the way of progress.

But I return to your theme of Control or be controlled.

Crown-Maori relationship
Tangata whenua are of course customary fishers, they have large commercial interests and many fish regularly as recreational fishers.

This means that iwi Maori have a range of interests that can often overlap and can sometimes be in direct competition.

From the Crown side of the relationship, the Ministry of Fisheries has told me they are committed to working closely with iwi and hapu on ways to improve the way that tangata whenua participate in fisheries management.

They have recognised that they need to better deliver the Crown’s obligations arising from the Fisheries Settlement.

And so in keeping with this recognition, they have just finished a nationwide programme of hui seeking the views of iwi and haputo develop a new strategy that will guide Crown engagement with Maori on a national level and at an iwi and hapu level.

An aim of that strategy is to develop processes that support iwi and hapu to integrate their various rights and interests - commercial, non-commercial customary and recreational.

That’s all good – and that’s the way it should be.

But the question must be asked – how prepared is the Crown – and how prepared is iwi Maori – to ensure that our traditional ways will be valued; our own tribal resource management practices are upheld?

How are our conservation rahui followed to product our lands and water?

How do we define the boundaries between hapu or fishing grounds? What limits are placed on seafood gathering? How are our marae involved in the process of establishing management responsibilities for the taking of seafood?

And perhaps the biggest challenge of all – how do our traditional rahui align with the concept of Mataitai. What sort of validation do iwi consider of value in the creation of tangata tiaki –the Maori fisheries guardians nominated by tangata whenua and appointed by the Minister of Fisheries.

I am really interested in hearing from the Maori fishing sector leaders today, about how that alignment works between our traditional kaupapa and Government designed concepts.

As tangata whenua, we all know that we were fishing one thousand years ago, and if we plan on fishing for the next thousand years, we must remain staunch in upholding our kaupapa, our traditions in caring for our precious resources.

The message of kaitiakitanga is one and the same as the message of sustainability. We have partaken of the food garden, sown by our ancestors. It is time for us to resow, to ensure sustenance for the generations to come.

Kua kai tatou i nga kai o te mara, i tiria e o tatau tipuna.

Me tiri ano hoki tatau, kia whai hua ai etahi oranga mo nga whakatipuranga e heke mai nei.

Tangata whenua have been monitoring and protecting customary take, and indeed our rohe moana over centuries.

Iwi must maintain that distinctive independent stance in all aspects of fisheries developments.

Deepwater fisheries management
It is then from this context that I want to focus on two particular initiatives. The first is the plan for managing our valuable deepwater fisheries. This plan is intended to ensure we have a common understanding of how the deepwater fisheries are to be managed, how to improve those fish stocks that are below where we want them to be and to achieve a new consensus on ways to improve the performance of the fishing fleet.

And yet the Ministry of Fisheries tells me that even though iwi are important quota owners, a lot of the iwi that have received deepwater quota are not yet actively involved in the deepwater industry. I am really keen to see that change – and I want to know any barriers or obstacles that are preventing the dialogue from taking place.

The quota that was received under the settlement is a very valuable asset and managing the fisheries that quota gives property rights to is an important part of getting the most value out of that settlement.

I see the leaders here today as having a major role to play in achieving this and I ask for your involvement and assistance.

The second key priority for me is to ensure that the change happens to guarantee that the aquaculture industry should develop in the ways that we all determine best. We must unlock the potential of aquaculture, this will be good for the whole seafood industry and good for Maori.

There is some progress being made now, we have an amendment Bill before Select Committee that we intend to progress. But we need a wider amendment package in place to
o expand the potential for negotiated outcomes where there will be a large effect on fishing;
o improve the operation of the invited private plan change process; and
o To facilitate experimental aquaculture.

The Government and the industry have commissioned an independent review and so I am encouraging us all to be vigilant to achieve the change we need in amendments to the regime.

Iwi Stories
Finally, I want to commend the Treaty Tribes Coalition for an impressive programme. A particular highlight will be the presentation from Wenona Victor – from the Stó:lo Nation and to learn more about the culturally based dispute resolution process they follow.

But another key feature will be the priority of iwi stories. And I want to just add my own - one close to home, that of Ngati Kere.

The kaumatua of Ngati Kere and their taiapure committee have invested in recording the stories of the people and their relationships with the coastal marine. Their project to articulate Maori methods and indicators for marine protection described this sacred ground along our coastlines as the place where Kahungunu, the man, came to rest and renourish.

The project highlighted the significance attached to preserving this space as a pantry for kaimoana, and in doing so, to restore to us our knowledge of our rich heritage as food gatherers, cultivators, makers of nets; our mana invested in our capacity to be able to provide kaimoana for all manuhiri who came within our shores.

The project, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for the Environment, was supported in the hopes that the practices followed by Ngati Kere in their use of tohu, marine indicators to measure the health of the rohe moana, would be relevant to a wider audience.

Projects such as this ultimately provide us with the inspiration and the confidence to make our mark, to determine our own destinies, to strive for the complete and utter realisation of rangatiratanga. As they say, control your destiny or someone else will.

Our future is all about preserving and protecting our air, water, lands, it is about controlling our own resources, making our own decisions based on our philosophies and practices.

We must ensure we are culturally, physically, economically strong through being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, secure in our cultural identity and knowing that our solutions lie in te Ao Maori.

Tangata whenua can control the environmental, recreational, commercial, customary and political sustainability of iwi fisheries. It is a worthy challenge for us all to fight for.


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