Many of you will know that the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, which is supported by 89 per cent of New Zealanders and 86 per cent of Maori, is on hold while crisis talks are held between the National Party and the Maori Party. This is as a result of Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) pushing for the Maori Party to leave the Government over the bill to protect this ecologically important area. …
One of the first steps taken was to work with Ngati Kuri to get their blessing and support for this important mahi, because we know that conservation doesn’t work without iwi being involved, and that Te Tiriti o Waitangi gives us Pakeha our foot in this land.
Important to note the two Iwi with actual historical links to the area were involved and consulted.
Just over a year ago, the National Government announced it would create the sanctuary, and we, and it seemed the entire country too, were over the moon. Protection for this vital ecosystem was going to happen and New Zealand was going to set up the largest ocean sanctuary in the world.
There were some rumblings from TOKM and other fishing industry lobbyists, but that came as no surprise. Time and again they have opposed (too often successfully) progressive legislation for our oceans: from the Marine Reserves Bill in 2002, to protection for Maui dolphins, to legislation to protect workers on foreign charter vessels, and pretty much any no-take marine protected area ever suggested. You name it they fight it, tooth and nail.
TOKM are among those who were using foreign flagged vessels which used slave labour. They fought the Government changes to require such vessels to be flagged in NZ.
Then the rumblings got louder. TOKM (which represents Maori commercial fishing interests) claimed the failure to consult with iwi and Maori was inconsistent with the Treaty, and reading the cabinet paper you’d have to say they are right.
Government consultation – whether with mana whenua, the iwi leaders’ group, Maori or fishing interests – didn’t start until after the announcement had been made.
It is fair to say the Government made a mistake by prioritising making the announcement a surprise for a global meeting, over domestic consultation.
But this is where my views diverge from some others who also hold the role of Te Tiriti in Aotearoa close to their hearts. I believe TOKM has used the legitimate anger around the process for developing the bill to get support for its position that it and the wider fishing industry should essentially have a right to veto marine protection in the Kermadecs, and wherever there is fishing quota, which is pretty much the entire ocean.
I don’t think this is right under the Treaty or under the law. Quota, both that held by Maori and Pakeha, has always been subject to regulation to look after the health of our oceans. The fisheries settlement was explicit that the government would still need to (and has the right to) regulate quota in terms of how much, where and what kind of fishing can take place.
And restricting where quota can be fished does not impact the property right associated with that quota. They are still allowed to catch the same amount of fish – just not in some areas.
It has to be that way because if the fishing industry has a right to veto marine protection, we will have no more effective marine protection.
There have been 20 marine reserves created, and none have had demands for compensation because again your rights to quota can easily be met in the areas outside the reserves. If you need to compensate for every marine reserve created, then there won’t be any more.