Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou welcomes new mātaitai

Photo taken by Tony Bridge.

Photo taken by Tony Bridge.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, has approved the Ōtākou Mātaitai Reserve, which covers an area east of Pulling Point to Harwood Point, and to the mouth of the Otago Harbour.

Donna Matahaere, Chairperson, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, says the rūnanga is thrilled with the decision.

“We have been working to establish this mātaitai since 2008,” she says.

“Throughout the process there has been a lot of public consultation and some amendments to our proposal, but we are very happy with where we have ended up.”

Donna says that the area of the mātaitai is of great significance to the rūnanga.

“The Lower Otago Harbour is a site of traditional importance to Ōtākou whānau. It represents a major highway, a place of shelter, a connection to our settlements and marae; it is an important provider of kaimoana,” she says.

otakou_mataitai_communications_20160922-resizedEdward Ellison, Ngāi Tahu kaumātua, says this is an important step in the recognition of customary fishing title.

“This mātaitai is an important tool for the rūnanga to enhance and develop our customary rights,” he says.

“It also provides a great way for people to get involved in the harbour and learn about customary fishing.”

Nigel Scott, Principal Advisor – Mahinga Kai, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, says mātaitai symbolise the special relationship Ngāi Tahu has with traditional fishing grounds.

“Mātaitai allow us to establish excellent working partnerships with communities, community groups and research providers, which act to protect our in-shore resources,” says Nigel.

“They also allow us to improve our understanding of the local ecosystem and ensure we are able to effectively monitor resources.

“Mātaitai have created an increased interest among tribal members in marine science, research and academia. Likewise, they have increased interest from scientists in the benefits of studying customary approaches, which have worked for centuries. They have also acted to empower community members to protect and enhance their local natural resources and mahinga kai,” says Nigel.

Donna says that the next step for the mātaitai is for the minister to appoint Tangata Tiaki. Tangata Tiaki have the authority to authorise any individual to take fish, aquatic life or seaweed for customary food gathering purposes, from within the whole or any part of the mātaitai reserve. No fishing for customary food gathering purposes may take place in the mātaitai reserve without authorisation from the Tangata Tiaki.

“The rūnanga will also establish a management committee whose initial task will be to prepare a customary fisheries management plan,” says Donna.

Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou expect to engage with other harbour users and stakeholders in the course of its mātaitai management duties.

Further information about mātaitai reserves is available on the MPI website: www.mpi.govt.nz.