Ngāi Tahu to run marine farms after Treaty settlement

updated By Jessica Tyson

Ngāi Tahu will be able to undertake marine farming in Murihiku, in the South Island, after an aquaculture agreement was signed today between Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Te Ohu Kaimoana, and the government.

The agreement delivers on the Crown’s settlement obligations. Ngāi Tahu has been advocating for its rights in the marine aquaculture sector since the 1992 fisheries settlement. Since 2004, the government has been settling Māori commercial aquaculture claims and providing iwi with 20 percent of a region’s consented aquaculture space.

As a result of the agreement, a 16.6-hectare area of aquaculture space off the northern coast of Rakiura/Stewart Island will be transferred to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to use for aquaculture. The iwi will still need to apply for resource consent for any marine farming activity.

New jobs for South Islanders

Upoko o Awarua Tā Tipene O’Regan says aquaculture complements New Zealand’s wild fisheries, and he hopes potential projects, such as offshore salmon, seaweed or native species farming, will lead to new jobs for Southlanders and others around Aotearoa.

“Aquaculture is a low-emission industry, which employs more than 3000 people in the regions and generates over $650 million in revenue. This growing industry could help to boost regions grappling with the challenges of Covid-19 and the loss of international tourism.”

Representatives of Hokonui, Waihōpai, Awarua, and Ōraka-Aparima Papatipu Rūnaka signed the agreement today, together with Minister of Conservation Kiritapu Allan, and Te Ohu Kaimoana chief executive Lisa te Heuheu at Te Rau Aroha Marae. Four other ministers signed the agreement remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions.

O’Regan says the signing was an opportunity to engage directly with the minister about Ngāi Tahu aspirations for aquaculture throughout the takiwā (tribal area).

“Ngāi Tahu want to be at the forefront of this sustainable and developing industry, as we undertake aquaculture projects that are aligned with our tribal values of rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga, to help achieve the aspirations of our people,” he says.

Tribal aquaculture strategy being developed

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett says a tribal aquaculture strategy is being developed to support the iwi to lead and develop marine farming assets and activities throughout Aotearoa, including using the settlement area in Southland.

“Papatipu Rūnaka is the anchor at the centre of this regional agreement. While the settlement area is a tribal asset, and how it is utilised has yet to be decided by Te Rūnanga, mana whenua will remain at the heart of any decisions about projects to be developed in this space," Bennett says.

For Ngāi Tahu, harvesting kaimoana has been a way of life for centuries. Stories about the ocean, home to the sea god Tangaroa, were traditionally passed down from tīpuna (ancestors). Ngāi Tahu used the oceans to reach Aotearoa from Hawaiki, eventually settling in Te Wai Pounamu.

O'Regan says, “Ngāi Tahu has a strong connection with the ocean, which includes intimate knowledge of and respect for the sea. This is what makes a sustainable industry such as aquaculture such a natural fit for our people."

He says Murihiku could lead the way.

“Aquaculture could be a key sector for diversifying the Southland economy, as well as a potential opportunity to share Murihiku kaimoana with the rest of the world."