Ngāti Wai concerned over potential impact of Kermadec Sanctuary

By Dean Nathan

Ngāti Wai's economic development base will be badly affected if commercial fishing in the sea surrounding the Kermadec Islands is banned.

That's according to the chair of the Ngāti Wai Trust Board, Haydn Edmonds, who disputes the Crown's decision to turn the area into a sanctuary. 

Ngāti Wai say the proposal to turn the sea around the Kermadec Islands into a sanctuary is not the real issue for them.

Ngati Wai Chair, Hadyn Edmonds says, “The issue for us is the lack of consultation over that process.  It purports to give away over six hundred thousand hectares of space which includes the protection of 150 species of inshore fish.”

Ngāti Wai dispute the Prime Minister's stance that Māori haven't fished the Kermadec area for a decade.

Edmond says, “That's not true, there is a fishing company that goes up there every year during the four months that its open to fish the highly migratory fish which is blue fin and swordfish.”

In addition to the government's proposed marine protected area for the Hauraki Gulf, Ngāti Wai say it's just another ploy to drain their pockets.

“It’s going to be very difficult for us to say, well where do we go, do we line up with all the "illegals" outside and wait for the fish to swim through there.  I mean that's in effect what he's saying.”

Ngāti Wai hold 20% of all snapper quota within their large in-shore fishery.

The bulk of Ngāti Wai income is derived from their fishing quota.

Under their Deed of Settlement, Ngāti Kuri are deemed the tangata whenua of the Kermadecs and strongly support the proposed sanctuary.

Harry Burkhardt says, “My view is we need to be protecting our rights and interests and our obligation space and it doesn’t matter who the government is, I think we'll always be having that conversation.”

But that's not to say they don't support TOKM who have taken the issue to the High Court.

Burkhardt says, “We fully support the opportunity to do that, as they have acknowledged our rights to have a position at the Kermadecs or Rangitahua.  There’s also a counter conversation how do we protect our rights and interests per se?