Fishing resources

Community backs idea of ​​closing Taranaki coast to protect seafood resources

Mahara Okeroa, Spokesperson for Nga Hapū o Taranaki and Jacqui King, President of Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi, are thrilled that the community is stepping up to protect seafood resources along the Taranaki Coast for future generations.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Mahara Okeroa, Spokesperson for Nga Hapū o Taranaki and Jacqui King, President of Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi, are thrilled that the community is stepping up to protect seafood resources along the Taranaki Coast for future generations.

Organizers of a meeting to discuss a proposed two-year legal ban on seafood picking along the Taranaki coast say they are pleased with the show of community unity on the issue.

About 100 people, including iwi and hapū representatives, fishing enthusiasts and farmers, packed the dining hall of Oakura Hall on Sunday.

The turnout and lack of dissent was encouraging, said Jacqui King, president of Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi.

“Our ambition is to have this in place before some of the high tides before Christmas. I would be very, very happy if that could happen. We will have taken a major step.

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A customary rāhui has been in place for months, following summer’s alarm that the region’s paua beds and other shell habitats were being laid bare by hundreds of people from outside the region.

Te Kahui o Taranaki is now asking for a legal ban by the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries.

“It’s going to take a unified approach,” King said. “It’s too big not to. It is the largest rāhui of its type in terms of covered shells and geographical area.

“It is a combined and integrated approach for nga hapū and the community.

Mahara Okeroa addresses around 100 people at a meeting in Oakura on Sunday.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Mahara Okeroa addresses around 100 people at a meeting in Oakura on Sunday.

Mahara Okeroa, spokesperson for Nga Hapu o Taranaki, said organizers had met with yacht club representatives and agreed they would work together.

The change will take rahui “from tradition to law”, so that fisheries officers and police can enforce the ban, he said.

Taking kaimoana under a legal prohibition results in fines of up to $5,000, or up to $100,000 if taken for sale.

“It’s not just about us as hapū under our mountain,” Okeroa said. “We’re more interested in it being a community initiative. It’s inclusive.

All hapū had agreed not to issue any cultural harvesting permits for hui and tangihanga.

“We are giving up a legal right that we have to obtain this understanding. We want this to be based on the concern of the whole community.

Several people raised concerns that the proposed closure would shift the problem to other areas.

Okeroa said they shared information with hapū from other regions, who could move in to protect their own coast if they saw the need.

During the two years of the coast being closed, plans would be made to protect the resource once it reopens, the meeting heard.

Taipuni Ruakere, from Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi Taiao, Taiora Environmental Management Team, speaks today.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Taipuni Ruakere, from Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi Taiao, Taiora Environmental Management Team, speaks today.

Taipuni Rakere, who is part of the Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi environmental team, said they were working with a Taranaki Regional Council scientist, schoolchildren, kaumātua and hapū members, to investigate current populations of shellfish, and also ensure the traditional practices were not forgotten during the ban.

The legal closure proposal will protect all shellfish, including pāua, kina and pūpū; lobster, crabs; octopus, anemones, conger eel; and all algae (excluding beach cast).

The ban under Section 186a of the Fisheries Act would extend two nautical miles offshore, covering some 300 square kilometres, but finfish are not included.

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

Public submissions close September 15.

New Plymouth District Council’s iwi relations staff have been asked to draft a proposal for councilors to consider at their September 6 meeting.