Kaimoana ban may receive support from the municipality

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New Plymouth city councilors will consider supporting a two-year ban on collecting kaimoana along the coast south of the city.

Rāhui coordinator Mahara Okeroa says commercial interests are opposing the bid for legal kaimoana protection along the coast of Taranaki.
Photo: Te Korimako or Taranaki via LDR

In May, the hapū of Taranaki iwi asked the minister for oceans and fisheries to legally ban the gathering of seafood along the coast, to help enforce a customary rāhui that has been in place for months.

The rāhui coordinator, Parihaka kaumātua Mahara Okeroa, addressed New Plymouth County Council’s Te Huinga Taumatua Committee this week, and Councilor Tony Bedford urged action to support the legal ban.

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“If the municipality wants to put forward a proposal to support it, for me it is natural, I support it absolutely 100 percent… Time is of the essence.”

Te Huinga Taumatua Co-Chairman Gordon Brown asked council staff to prepare a submission for consideration when the full council meets again on September 6.

Public submissions close on September 15, and hapū is hosting a public meeting on the rāhui at Oākura Hall this Sunday for whānau and the wider community.

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The proposed legal closure sets out what is protected – all shellfish, including pāua, kina and pūpū; rock lobster, crabs; octopus, anemone, conger eel; and all seaweed (excluding beach sausage).

The ban would extend two nautical miles off the coast and cover some 300 square kilometers, but fin whales are not included.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has requested comments “from persons with an interest in the stocks concerned or in the effects of fishing in the area concerned”.

Article 186a of the Fisheries Act provides for a collection ban for two years, with the possibility of extension.

Using kaimoana under a legal prohibition will incur fines of up to $5,000, or up to $100,000 if it is put up for sale.

The rāhui was first laid around Ōpunakē in January following alarm over ever-increasing car and busloads of visitors from Auckland’s Asian communities who have come to pick up kaimoana over the past two summers.

As more bite added, it spread along some 70 miles of coastline to Paritutu in New Plymouth.

Initially in effect until the end of July, the rāhui has been extended indefinitely.

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Every weekend, community patrols have asked coastal visitors to respect the rāhui, hand out leaflets and explain why they want the reefs to be left alone.

A two-year ban would allow monitoring of taonga species and consideration of measures such as mātaitai – reserves where tangata whenua legislates to manage non-commercial fisheries, and commercial fishing is generally prohibited.

Okeroa said political representations had the wind in their sails.

“We’re already getting pretty strong pressure from the [Rock Lobster Industry Council] for commercial crayfish, so things will get delicate before they get better.

“We expect to face opposition… Every morning from my window I see the constant back and forth of commercial crayfish.”

All the hapū had agreed not to issue cultural harvest permits for the likes of hui and tangihanga, but Okeroa said there was friction.

“We also feel a little pressure from our own people: my answer to that, if I can’t have a pāua and a kina from down there, if we’re willing to sacrifice that, then you should too.”

The chairman of Te Kāhui o Taranaki and of the Oākura Pā administrators Jacqui King is also at Te Huinga Taumatua.

She said Covid-19 restrictions on international travel and organized bus trips have led to a soul-destroying looting of the reefs.

“Tour guides have brought them to our spaces…MPI has found evidence of that.

“Our beaches are so accessible and that’s advertised through Facebook – you Google it, search on YouTube and it’s easy to find if you speak Chinese.”

Catching undersized pāua in numbers exceeding legal catch limits wasn’t the only problem, King said.

“It’s all: they strip a rock with a wire and take everything off. Everything that tastes like the sea is gone.

“There are an awful lot of whānau who were not born in New Zealand, who have not been able to come home to their traditional practices, who have used the resources we have in numbers that have been unsustainable.”

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

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