Taranaki hapū seeks shellfish ban

By Contributor

Craig Ashworth, Local Democracy Reporter

The fisheries minister is considering an application from a hapū of Taranaki iwi to ban shellfish collection along their coastline for two years.

A legal ban would make enforceable the customary ban that has spread along the coast since hapū of Ōrimupiko Pā laid the first rāhui in January.

Some seventy kilometres of coastline are under rāhui, from just south of Ōpunakē to Paritutu in New Plymouth, after local alarm at hundreds of visitors collecting kaimoana – especially pāua – during the last two summers.

Parihaka kaumātua Mahara Okeroa said although most people respected the rāhui, legal backing under the Fisheries Act was needed to fully protect kaimoana stocks.

“Our rāhui does not have legal power, and without that it does get to quite pointed discussions here on the coast.”

The Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker confirmed Fisheries New Zealand had received the application for a temporary closure.

“My officials are working through the details of the request with the applicant, and public consultation is expected to start soon,” he said.

Following consultation, Fisheries New Zealand would get feedback on the submissions from Taranaki hapū, and officials would then prepare advice for the minister to consider.

Okeroa said community patrols formed to keep watch on the coast had a difficult job.

“To approach is quite testing: it goes from people agreeing with our kaupapa to people who will stand there and be quite aggressive.”

He said gatherers from Auckland’s Asian communities continued to visit the coast, and those ignoring the rāhui were going to the reefs at every low tide to collect their limit.

Fisheries minister David Parker is considering an application from a hapū of Taranaki iwi to ban shellfish collection along their coastline for two years. / NZME

Fisheries minister David Parker is considering an application from a hapū of Taranaki iwi to ban shellfish collection along their coastline for two years. / NZME

Numbers were currently lower than during the summer peaks of the last two years, but hapū wanted protection in place before the weather warmed up again.

Okeroa signed the bid for the legal ban on behalf of the combined hapū along with Jacqui King, the chairperson of iwi organisation Te Kāhui o Taranaki, which had been supporting the hapū through the rāhui.

Section 186a of the Fisheries Act allows for waters to be temporarily closed if collection “is having an adverse effect on the use and management practices of tangata whenua in the exercise of non-commercial fishing rights.”

The minister must consult groups with an interest in the area “including tangata whenua, environmental, commercial, recreational, and local community interests.”

He must provide for tangata whenua input in the decision, “having particular regard to kaitiakitanga [stewardship].”

Taking kaimoana despite a legal ban attracts fines of up to $5000, or up to $100,000 if it is taken for sale.

The application called for a ban to match the rāhui, which included all shellfish and reef life such as octopus.

“Ehara mō te pāua me te kina anake – mō ngā mātaitai katoa.”

[“It’s not just for pāua and kina – it’s for all seafood.”]

Finfish were not included in the ban as Okeroa said “we don’t think the damage is done there.”

Ngā Mahanga of Puniho Pā were the final hapū to join the rāhui, as Covid precautions had delayed their kaumātua from meeting.

Okeroa said he was glad they joined, as their coast would have been under heavy pressure if it was the only gap in the iwi-wide rāhui.

He said a two-year ban would give hapū and iwi a chance to form a long-term protection plan for the coast throughout the Taranaki iwi rohe.

“One of things we’re learning on this journey is we as an iwi are going to learn how we manage our coastline... to preserve our kai for ngā mokopuna ka haere mai [coming generations].”

If that took longer than two years the Fisheries Act ban could be renewed.

He said Taranaki iwi had just one legally-mandated voluntary fisheries officer, and there were plans to train and certify more.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air