Māori powerless to enforce rāhui on their rohe

By Taroi Black
Whakatāne / Source - Wikipedia Commons

The Whakatāne river rāhui that was ignored this week has been lifted. Images emerged of commercial and recreational fishing crews carrying on as usual despite local council support. The government agency that overlooks fisheries says it lacks legal power to enforce rāhui.

The council recently used social media to inform the public of the rāhui, but had no signage to inform the public out on the water. A Whakatāne District Council spokesperson said that they have pledged to develop signs for, “Immediate deployments if future rāhui are initiated in the District.”

Ngāti Awa tōhunga Koro Tutua (spiritual leader), kaumātua Te Kei Merito and Joe Harawira helped place the rāhui (temporary ritual prohibition) over the awa to help manaaki the process amongst the grieving whānau.

Ngāti Awa urged whānau and locals to refrain from fishing, gathering kaimoana, or any recreational activities from Turuturu Roimata to Taneatua.

While interviewing Joe Harawira on the recent rāhui, Te Ao Māori filmed fishermen casting off from the rocks and a charter boat sailing out, with its fishing rods in full view.

Man caught fishing on Whakatāne river. Source - Te Ao Māori News

The council informed Te Ao that their local harbourmaster had visited the Coastguard, with instructions to broadcast the rāhui to all boat crews. However comments on social media show that people did not know about the rāhui. Te Ao reached out to the Ministry of Primary Industries for comment.

Stuart Anderson, MPI Director of Fisheries Management told Te Ao, “We can (and do) offer support by raising awareness with the public encouraging and to respect such rahui."

Boat caught operating during rāhui. Source - Te Ao Māori News

Despite MPI not holding a mandate in order to enforce traditional rāhui they can show tautoko to ensure the public and other users accessing these areas is respected.