Mataitai proponents questioned at meeting

Dean Whaanga
Dean Whaanga
Mixed views, and strong views, were expressed at Tuesday night's public consultation on the proposed Omaui mataitai reserve.

A mataitai reserve is an identified traditional fishing ground, and an application was submitted by Te Runanga o Awarua for one to be put in place around the coastline of Omaui, which would meet the existing one around Bluff.

The meeting held at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff consisted of representatives from Fisheries New Zealand and the Awarua Runanga detailing the specifics of the application and the process involved, which was followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session with locals.

Awarua runanga chairman Dean Whaanga said, ''this is a big taki, plan or idea we have put in front of you to discuss.

''We hope we can answer all the questions you have for us.''

There were plenty.

Lots of discussion was on the potential for bylaws to be passed.

While commercial fishing is prohibited in a mataitai reserve, bylaws may be passed which alter recreational fishing rules, but for now those remain unchanged.

Fisheries New Zealand spatial planning and allocation team manager Blake Abernethy said of the 45 mataitai in New Zealand, only 15 had bylaws.

Bylaws must be for sustainable management of fisheries resources and have to be recommended by tangata tiaki (guardians of the area) and the decision is made by the fisheries minister - at present, Stuart Nash.

The next steps are for Fisheries New Zealand to consult those with fishing interests, assess the application, advise the minister and then declare the application's approval or otherwise. Tangata tiaki, are then appointed, if approved.

Asked why a mataitai was required, Mr Whaanga replied that the area the mataitai covers includes patches that are under stress and having a mataitai allows for quicker regulation setting, if needed.

It was explained bylaws could be very specific and changes could vary from catch size or quality, catch limit, could be species-specific or regulate what equipment could be used.

Submissions on the application close November 11.

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