The Minister for Primary Industries has approved a customary fishing reserve in Otago Harbour following an eight-year consultation and proposal process.

The Otakou Mataitai Reserve will prevent commercial fishing from the east of Pulling Point to Harwood Point, and to the mouth of Otago Harbour.

Te Runanga o Otakou chairwoman Donna Matahaere-Atariki said the runanga was "extremely pleased'' with the decision.

In 2008 the runanga applied to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to establish a maitaitai reserve to manage non-commercial fishing in the harbour.

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Under the mataitai, recreational fishing could not be banned, but no fishing for customary food gathering purposes could take place without approval from a Tangata Tiaki (a group which can authorise fishing in accordance with tikanga Maori), Ms Matahaere-Atariki said.

Three people had been chosen to be Tangata Tiaki, but they could not be named until they were approved by MPI Minister Nathan Guy.

The mataitai, which transferred management of the fishery from MPI to the runanga, had been welcomed by most recreational fishers, she said.

"It will prevent the pillage of a particular area ...

"And people will have a lot more say about what goes on in the area.''

Southern Clams operations manager David Redshaw said the business had two harvesting areas in the harbour, but he did not anticipate the mataitai would negatively affect the business.

The business had adjusted the boundary of one of its harvesting areas in response to discussions with the runanga, he said.

Recreational fisher Warren Lewis said he was pleased there was now an area within the harbour that would be exempt from commercial fishing.

"It allows for flexibility and recreational fishing and allows for the area to be farmed instead of large numbers being taken at once.''

He was confident recreational fishers would be consulted when a runanga management committee created a customary fisheries management plan.

The plan would set out what was customary use and suggest initiatives to enhance and protect fisheries in the area, Ms Matahaere said.

"The lower Otago Harbour is a site of traditional importance to Otakou Whanau.

"It represents a major highway, a place of shelter, a connection to our settlements and marae.

"It is an important provider of kaimoana.''

Port Chalmers Fishermen's Co-operative member Neil McDonald declined to comment.

Ms Matahaere-Atariki hoped the Tangata Tiaki would be approved within a month and a customary fisheries management plan would be established, in consultation with other harbour users, shortly afterwards.

MPI could not comment on the decision yesterday.