Local Maori excited about fishing reserve decision

A mataitai fishing reserve has been confirmed for a small portion of waters off the Kaka Point coastline, elating local Maori and disappointing fishers who earn a living in the area.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton yesterday announced the mataitai would take effect immediately but legally the Government has to wait 28 days so all affected parties are notified.

This means the mataitai will take effect from Thursday, April 3, assuming the mataitai is publicly notified this weekend.

Maori groups formally applied for the reserve 18 months ago and the minister's statement came as a surprise to many.

It was welcomed by the guardians who will oversee the new reserve but a commercial fishing industry spokesman said it was a disappointing move that would threaten the livelihood of divers and threaten to disrupt the re-emerging paua industry.

Commercial fishing will be banned but recreational and customary fishing is allowed in the reserve area between Tirohanga and Campbell Point, south of Kaka Point. It covers about 2.34sq km.

Mataitai reserves recognise traditional Maori fishing grounds that are important for customary food gathering. They also allow local tangata whenua to advise the minister directly on how best to manage fishing in the local area.

Mr Anderton said the Kaka Point mataitai would allow the Awarua rununga to more effectively manage customary fishing in what was an important and traditional gathering area.

He stressed the mataitai would have no effect on the local community's ability to go fishing or gather shellfish under existing rules.

In the future, he said the guardians of the reserve might recommend bylaws to him that could impose some restrictions but any restrictions would apply equally to everyone fishing within the reserve boundaries.

Mr Anderton said he recognised the mataitai would affect some commercial fishers but, overall, he believed those effects would not stop them from taking their catch entitlements.

The new mataitai followed a separate consultation and decision-making process alongside the controversial plans to create a marine reserve in the same area.

One of the guardians, Mary Johnstone, said the minister's decision was a great occasion for the area and a move that would be of huge benefit to the wider community.

‘‘We're pretty excited about it,'' she said when contacted. She and other guardians would be trained to manage such a reserve and a committee would be formed to enforce the regulations and rules that would be introduced in time.

Although she was not expecting ‘‘any nonsense'', Mrs Johnstone said some restrictions would be introduced in the interests of fairness for all.

‘‘We want people to come and be able to go fishing there. Instead of one person taking 30 crayfish away with them, we believe they should be allowed to to get what they need so there is plenty left for others.''

PauaMac5 chairman Storm Stanley said some divers, who work in the reserve area, would be directly affected in what was a very productive coastline.

Although he hinted the industry might try and overturn the minister's decision, Mr Stanley said there was very little chance of success.