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Māori rights at stake from Kermadec ocean sanctuary, iwi leader says

Wednesday 29th March 2017

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Jamie Tuuta, Te Ohu Kaimoana's chairman, says iwi and Māori have "taken our eye off the ball" and the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill had made it abundantly clear that Māori rights are at stake.

Te Ohu Kaimoana has fought with the government over the proposed Kermadec ocean sanctuary, saying the enabling legislation undermines the integrity of the 1992 settlement, and filed papers in the High Court last March to protect iwi fishing interests around the Kermadec Islands. A preliminary hearing was held in Wellington last month.

Speaking at the 2017 Māori Fisheries Conference in Auckland this morning, Tuuta said the year since the last conference has "been somewhat of a battle" with debate around the bill bringing forward "frank discussions over fisheries management and the role of the Fisheries Act."

"Questions around why a sanctuary is needed when the Fisheries Act and our quota management system are perfectly capable of managing sustainability," Tuuta said. "The properties of the QMS – perpetuity, security, and sustainability – were the incentives Māori required for long-term management, recognising that future generations would benefit or otherwise from the actions of the current generation. 

"Maori endorsed the Quota Management System in 1992 as a suitable regime for the sustainable management of commercial fisheries. It is the only fisheries management regime that has been agreed and endorsed by Māori. There is no other."

The fisheries settlement with the Crown had been the beginning of a collective iwi economic awakening and revitalisation for Māori, Tuuta said, and had confirmed an ongoing relationship between the Crown and iwi over fisheries. 

The iwi fisheries body released their Māori Fisheries Strategy in February, where it said some of the proposals in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ ‘Future of our Fisheries’ consultation undermine Maori fishing rights that were confirmed as part of the Sealord deal.

Tuuta said the group sees the strategy as the start of a discussion among iwi about how to collectively manage fisheries and the marine environment. Iwi need the Crown to acknowledge that management must be done in conjunction with it, as a Treaty partner, and unilateral decisions by the Crown should "be met with strenuous objection".

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