Thirty years of Māori fisheries rights celebrated

By James Perry

The 30th anniversary of the Fisheries Deed of Settlement is a time to celebrate a truly historic partnership that has helped transform communities, the parliamentary under-secretary to the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Rino Tirikatene says.

“The agreement between the Crown and Māori righted past wrongs, delivered on the Crown’s Treaty obligations, and set a platform for Māori to realise the potential of their fisheries taonga,'' Tirikatene says.

“In addition to partnering in managing New Zealand’s fisheries, Māori are now key players in fisheries, owning approximately 40 per cent of commercial fisheries, 100 per cent of customary fisheries and making up a good proportion of the recreational fishing sector.

“The agreement is unique in the world in that it recognises Māori rights to manage their customary fisheries and as partners in the management of New Zealand’s fisheries. We can look back over many successes in the past, and recognise this is an enduring relationship, one that will continue to grow and evolve over time,” Tirikatene says.

Negotiations on the fisheries settlement coincided with the sale of the fishing company Sealord, providing an opportunity for Māori to acquire a part of this business and its quota as part of the settlement.

Transformative effect

The 1992 settlement also created regulations that enabled tangata whenua to autonomously manage their customary fishing activities, and recognised the special relationship between tangata whenua and important customary fishing grounds. It allocated 20 per cent of all new species entering the Quota Management System for commercial fishing to Māori.

It provided representation of Māori on statutory fisheries entities and ensured a continuing relationship between Māori and the Crown in the management of fisheries,

The agreement has had a transformative effect on communities by enabling iwi and hapū to manage their own fishing rights.

“It will leave a long-lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy the traditions and way of life of their tūpuna. Not only does this create jobs in our communities for both Māori and non-Māori but it also contributes to Aotearoa New Zealand’s seafood exports worth more than $1.5 billion to our economy annually.

The introduction of customary and kaimoana regulations that followed have resulted in more than 700 kaitiaki managing customary fisheries nationwide.