by Greta Yeoman
Ngai Tahu has taken a neutral stance over proposed marine protected areas off the South Island’s east coast, expressing concern they would breach customary fishing rights.
The South-East Marine Protection Forum released its two recommended networks of marine protected areas, between Timaru and Bluff, to the Government last month, after more than three years of work on the options.
Timaru Ngai Tahu forum representative John Henry said taking care of all interests while compiling the recommendations for the Government had been a “very, very difficult job”.
“It took a very, very special group of people to sit there and go through the process.”
Mr Henry said Ngai Tahu had concerns about the marine reserves, which would breach customary fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi, so it had taken a neutral stance.
Both the options proposed would create a type 2 marine area off the Timaru coast, but the size of the area varied.
A type 2 Marine Protected Area (MPA) restricts some types of fishing methods and a type 1 MPA bans all fishing.
The network 1 proposal runs from Patiti Point to south of the Waihao River, including the Tuhawaiki Mataitai reserve, while network 2 runs from south of the Mataitai reserve to Pareora.
Neither proposal would have a major impact on fishing, as a voluntary trawling ban was already in place along the South Canterbury coastline, Mr Henry said.
Forest and Bird South Canterbury member Fraser Ross said the two network proposals were “quite different” but talking about marine protected areas was “timely and overdue”.
While there were concerns over catch intakes if marine protected areas were implemented, it was “not long-sighted”, as MPAs often created positive “spillover effects” for fish numbers.
Commercial fisheries Sanford and Talley’s both fish off the Timaru coast.
A Sanford representative referred The Courier to the company’s initial submission from 2014, which requested multi-stakeholder participation and backing from globally recognised New Zealand scientists.
“Aiming for marine protection area targets that are not based on scientific insight does not support constructive stakeholder engagement,” the submission read.
Clarification was sought from Sanford over whether the forum process had met these requests but could not be answered by deadline.
A Talley’s representative referred The Courier on to commercial fisheries forum representative Cathy Scott for commercial fishing comment, but she could not be reached by deadline.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, who, along with Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, will make decisions on the forum’s report at Government level, told The Courier that staff in both departments were “pulling together” advice on the report.
“Once we have that advice we will provide direction.