Two key hapu have come out against a proposal for a marine reserve in the Bay of Islands.
Community group Fish Forever is proposing a no-take reserve protecting two of the most significant areas in the Bay: 1000ha centred on Waewaetorea and Okahu islands, northwest of Urupukapuka, and 900ha adjoining the Rawhiti Peninsula's Maunganui Bay. Some 1200 submissions had been received when the group's consultation period closed on June 13.
However, eastern Bay of Islands hapu Ngati Kuta and Patukeha oppose the proposal, saying marine reserves should restrict commercial fishing but not local fishers.
Spokesman Bob Clarke said the proposed review period of 25 years was also far too long. "The proposed locations for the reserves are right in the middle of our food basket. Fish are more abundant in those places than ever."
The hapu own the wreck of the Canterbury, now a reef, in Maunganui Bay. The bay is already subject to a rahui (customary closure to fishing) imposed by the hapu but enforceable by law. The rahui has to be renewed every two years.
The hapu had previously worked with Fish Forever to plan patches of reserves, helping their conservation efforts in line with their kaitiaki (caretaker) status in the eastern Bay of Islands.
While the hapu recognised that Fish Forever had its own scientific agenda, the proposal did not fit the hapu's goals.
Mr Clarke said the hapu had withdrawn support from the Fish Forever proposal until their own plans had been consolidated and discussed with interested conservation groups.
Ngati Kuta and Patukeha were currently reviewing their own conservation plan, Te Kupenga o Ipipiri, which used customary methods such as rahui (seasonal, rotational no-take zones) and mataitai (seasonal, rotational restricted access to commercial fishing).
Fish Forever spokesman Vince Kerr said the group's long-standing aim of working with the hapu had not changed. Efforts were under way to reconnect with Ngati Kuta and Patukeha.
Meanwhile, group members were analysing the 1200 submissions. A report would be produced within the next few weeks. The Fish Forever proposal, if it goes ahead, will protect 6 per cent of the Bay's waters. See www.fishforever.org.nz for more information.