Maori Party calls for more recognition in Marine Reserves Act

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The Maori Party is raising concerns over the heavy-handed approach implicit in the Marine Reserves Act, which has the power to extinguish the rights of mana whenua in their customary practices, and effectively confiscate resources that have been traditionally, and successfully managed by iwi and hapu for many generations.

Akaroa“This issue has come to a head through the decision made in the last 24 hours to sign off a marine reserve for Akaroa Harbour,” said Te Ururoa Flavell. Not only will it have an effect on iwi resource management and cultural practices, it has been used as a tool to undermine the rangatiratanga of the mana whenua.”

“A marine reserve effectively establishes a long term ban on all fisheries in a designated area. Not only is it a heavy handed measure, it is a limited measure when you consider that fisheries and marine life are part of a wider ecological system that is not limited by arbitrary boundaries imposed by the Crown. This wider view of resource management is something that mana whenua have always acknowledged.”

“Tangata whenua are not just food gatherers, we are also conservators. We have many years of conservation experience that should be taken into account when making decisions about how to protect marine life.”

“This is not the first time that the Marine Reserves Act has been used to diminish mana whenuas rights. In the mid-1990s proposals around creating a marine reserve at Taputeranga in Wellington were opposed by Ngati Toa who were not properly consulted on the issue.”

“There are also many more Marine Reserve applications in process – and in each area, there will be local hapu and iwi who have knowledge about how to best handle the conservation needs of their resources.”

“We want to see the Marine Reserves Act account for meaningful engagement and consideration of mana whenua rights in these proposals, and align with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the its principles including active protection, participation and partnership.”

“We also want to see how this piece of legislation incorporates the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011, which was designed to recognise the customary rights and interests of mana whenua.”

“Iwi and hapu should be supported to maintain rangatiratanga over their resources and we believe that incorporating more of Te Tiriti o Waitangi into the Marine Reserves Act will ensure that cultural and environmental decisions are made in balance.”

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