By Elisha Young-Ebert, Senior Policy Advisor – North Canterbury Province
Federated Farmers occasionally notifies its members when the Ministry of Fisheries has received an application for a Mātaitai reserve on a waterway and invites those who live near the proposed reserve to make a submission.
The Federation notifies its members as a service to any member who may be affected because a Mātaitai reserve could be located on your property. If it is, you have the right to be consulted and you can make a submission to the Ministry about the application. Once a reserve is gazetted by the Minister of Fisheries, the reserve will yield two primary implications:
- the ability for the rūnanga (the iwi’s tribal council) in your area to control the fish that can be taken at any time in the reserve, and
- the regional and district councils in your area will need to consider land use around the reserves.
Consultation is an important landowner right and we would like our members to understand and be engaged in the process, as much as they can, before the application reaches the Minister for his/her final decision.
Mātaitai reserves are, simply, a waterway where Māori have traditionally customarily fished. Under the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown agreed that traditional fishing areas would be recognised and protected, subject to a set of regulations. One set for the North Island and another for the South. These waterways are not confined to the coastline. They can extend deep into valleys and across private property.
In the South Island, the Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1999 apply. The Regulations set out the process rūnanga must follow to apply to have the reserve approved and gazetted by the Minister. Their application typically explains the history of their practice of fishing that waterway, the fisheries found there, and a nomination of the tangata kaitiaki (guardians) who will oversee the reserve if the application is approved. The regulations also stipulate two stages in the process where the Minister must notify affected parties, including landowners and fishing companies, to offer them the opportunity to comment.
Once consultation stages end the Minister will consider all information collated by the Ministry of Fisheries, including all submissions, and he/she will decide if the application should be approved.
After a reserve is approved and gazetted by the Minister of Fisheries, the reserve is open only for recreational fishing. Commercial fishing will be excluded. The kaitiaki for the reserve can control fisheries in those waterways. They do have to follow the Regulations and notify their intent to control fisheries in a reserve, and there is a further opportunity to comment on their proposal. For example, in the Opihi and Waitarakoa Mātaitai Reserves there are bylaws to restrict the number of flatfish you may take for recreational purposes.
Under sections 66 and 74 of the Resource Management Act 1991, both regional and district councils must consider existing Mātaitai reserves in context with the issues of the region. As far as we are aware, no council has, to date, included methods or rules to address the potential impact of land use around Mātaitai reserves.
However, this is about to change. At the end of 2019, Canterbury Regional Council notified Plan Change 7, where the Council proposed a 2 km2 Mātaitai Zone along the Opihi River and Washdyke Lagoon. The Council proposes to include the zone to ensure surrounding land practices for two Mātaitai reserves would not adversely affect the water quality in the area.
The Federation ran a GIS analysis on the proposed zone, and we found the zone was 18 x 20 kmwide. The zone covers 15,737.09 ha but has the potential to materially impact 26,517.7 ha of farmland. This is because each property runs their own farm system and, with these proposed changes, farmers may have to change their entire farm system.
The main change for affected landowners will be stock exclusion rules that apply throughout the zone. Some landowners may have their whole property in the zone.
Plan Change 7 is being considered by the Hearing Commissioners so a final decision has not been reached. This plan change may set a significant precedent for all councils in future as they consider how Mātaitai reserves in relation to wider district or regional issues.
If you have a waterway, be it a stream or river, running through your property, it may be subject to a Mātaitai reserve. Look out for our member advisories alerting you to where an application has been lodged. If the reserve proposal runs through your property, please take that opportunity to write to the Minister with your views because once the reserve is gazetted, it can have considerable impact on your ability to operate your farm.
For more information about these reserves, please visit https://www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/maori-customary-fishing/customary-fisheries-management-areas/
Kaikoura farmers seek judicial review
In Kaikoura, three Mātaitai reserves were gazetted at the end of 2018 and none of the 90-odd affected landowners were aware of the applications.
The Regulations were written in 1999, at a time when many people still read the newspaper and local papers were widely distributed. That is not the case any more, and this can have a detrimental effect on landowners’ ability to comment.
The notices inviting submissions on the Kaikoura proposals were not in newspapers they read and the three Mātaitai reserves were approved without their knowledge.
Many of these affected landowners have banded together because they want their opportunity to comment. They have approached the Regulations Review Committee, alerting them to the fact the regulations need an update to ensure full and proper consultation occurs with affected parties. We understand the committee has requested a review of the regulations, particularly the clauses that say how the Minister should notify affected parties.
While this is promising progress for everyone who ever needs to access their right to be consulted, this does not change the fact these affected landowners in Kaikoura have not been able to present their views to the Minister.
They are now preparing to lodge an application to judicially review the Ministry’s handling of the Mātaitai applications in Kaikoura. They will need considerable funds for a judicial review and they are asking our members to help if they can.
If you are interested in learning about their personal experience and views, and would like to offer some support, however large or small, please go to http://bit.ly/Mataitai