Mataitai reserve bans commercial fishing

MANA MOANA: The red area shows the area of Te Rae o Kohi mataitai reserve, which runs along the coastline from Wahieroa in the west to Maraetotara in the east. The red areas around Rurima an Moutohora (Whale) Island are not included in this reserve. Photo Supplied.

COMMERCIAL fishing is to be banned this month from the high-tide mark to 200 metres offshore from Whakatane, between the Wahieroa and Maraetotara streams.

The change is likely to affect only one fisherman, Roy McIntyre, who sometimes gathers crayfish from the waters below Te Rae o Kohi, or Kohi Point.

However, fisheries minister Stuart Nash approved Te Runanga o Ngati Awa’s application to create Te Rae o Kohi mataitai reserve and it is set to become official after it is formally gazetted on May 28.

A mataitai reserve recognises and provides for the special relationship between Maori and their traditional fishing groups and non-commercial fishing.

While commercial fishing, including crayfishing, will no longer be permitted in the area, recreational fishing will be allowed in the area, which stretches from Wahieroa, near the Rangitaiki River mouth, and Maraetotara, in Ohope.

Although, the mataitai reserve status also allows Maori to create bylaws that may restrict or ban taking of fisheries species in the area. Bylaws can cover species, quantity, size limits, method of take, areas, and anything else considered to be needed for the sustainability of the fisheries resources in the reserve area.

Te Runanga o Ngati Awa customary fisheries officer Charlie Bluett said for now, no bylaws would be created.

“It is about future-proofing. Once a mataitai has been established, no commercial is allowed in there and bylaws enable us to monitor the type of activity we want to see in the mataitai.

“A mataitai doesn’t stop recreational fishing and our mataitai only extends 200m from the mean high tide mark.”

Mr Bluett said the mataitai reserve was created, after Te Runanga o Ngati Awa established the tribe’s rohe moana, or tribal fishing groups.

“That gave us an area of mana moana (authority) where we could gazette a mataitai. The idea behind the mataitai is the sustainable management of our fishing in the mataitai.

“We decided many years after establishing our mana moana and issue permits under the Resource Management Act regulations we would apply for a mataitai. Once a mataitai has been established then no commercial fishing can take place in there.”

Nine people were appointed as tangata kaitiaki, or guardians, for the mataitai reserve and Mr Bluett said the group also included representatives from Ngati Rangitihi to recognise their connection to the Rurima islands.

“When the tangata kaitiaki are notified the only ones that can issue permits in the mataitai area are those who have been named in the notice.”

The group tangata kaitiaki consist of Mr Bluett, Wiremu Hunia, Rapata Kopae, Joe Mason, Pouroto Ngaropo, Sterling Titoko Ratema, Tomairangi Fox, Anthony Olsen and Jim Rota.

Mr Bluett said the ban on commercial fishing would only affect one person, Mr McIntyre. He said during consultation, Mr McIntyre conceded that the reserve would only have a minor impact on his business because he only used the spot sometimes.

Mr McIntyre could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Te Whanau a Apanui hapu, Te Whanau a Kauaetangohia, have applied for a mataitai reserve for an area around Cape Runaway. Fisheries New Zealand is calling for submissions to the proposal.