Marine protection recognises cultural significance of moana

Oct 5, 2023

Kāi Tahu rangatira say today’s government announcement to establish a network of marine protected areas south-east of Te Waipounamu reflects the cultural significance of the moana.

Six Kāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnaka (Ōtākou, Puketeraki, Moeraki, Waihao, Awarua, and Arowhenua) have been working in partnership with the Crown on a proposal to establish South East Coast Marine Protection (SEMP) over the past nine years.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Deputy Kaiwhakahaere Matapura Ellison says Kāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnaka representatives on the SEMP Forum entered discussions in good faith and worked constructively with the support of the tribal council and other forum members to achieve a positive outcome.

“We welcome today’s announcement, which will ensure areas of the moana will have higher levels of protection for all New Zealanders, now and into the future,” he says.

“For Kāi Tahu, this protection includes measures to reconnect whānau with our rohe moana, to undertake our kaitiaki responsibilities, and the continuation of wānaka (educational workshops) to pass on traditional mātauraka (knowledge) to future generations of our people.

“This ensures we can uphold our cultural traditions and retain an intergenerational connection with our moana, without alienating our whānau from their ancestral fisheries, like what has happened when other marine reserves have been established.”

Upoko o Ōtākou Rūnaka Edward Ellison says the new reserves allow for Kāi Tahu to be directly engaged in managing the moana, rather than reserves being permanently locked up to the exclusion of whānau.

“We look forward to co-managing the reserves with the Crown and community. We also tautoko the funding of Kāi Tahu Rangers to undertake monitoring and restoration mahi, such as controlling the invasive seaweed Undaria and reseeding pāua and kelp.”

The marine reserves will be assessed every five years, with an extensive generational review to be undertaken every 25 years. A first for all marine reserves in Niu Tīreni (New Zealand).

“These reviews will be backed by research and monitoring, so we are making informed decisions based on up-to-date data.”

Kāi Tahu rangatira say its time the 52-year-old Marine Reserves Act is reviewed to ensure future marine protection does not take nine years to negotiate.

“We’re calling on the next government to commit to reviewing this outdated legislation, which is no longer fit for purpose for anyone, let alone achieving Te Tiriti-compliant marine protection,” says Edward Ellison.

“Despite the Marine Reserves Act being antiquated and silent on Te Tiriti principles, today’s announcement has set a new benchmark for how the Crown, Iwi, and communities can work together to protect our moana.”

Although Kāi Tahu is supportive of the new marine reserves, they include many places of significance to whānau, including traditional fishing grounds recognised in the 1989 and 1992 Tiriti o Waitangi fisheries settlements.

“Our customary commercial fishing rights will likely be affected by the new marine reserves, but we have made a pragmatic decision to support the protection of the network for the benefit of all New Zealanders,” explains Matapura Ellison.

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  • Kāi Tahu has managed its traditional fisheries for centuries. In recent years, this has involved using legislative tools provided by the two fishing settlements.
  • Mana whenua have established and manage a range of Customary Protection Areas (CPA), including 44 mātaitai, 4 taiāpure, and 49 special fishing regulation areas with restrictions / prohibitions on commercial or recreational fishing.
  • Throughout the takiwā, Kāi Tahu Takata Tiaki are actively engaged in restoration programmes such as pāua and kelp reseeding, undaria control, and the monitoring of key traditional fishing areas.