Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Te Ohu ads step up fight on sanctuary

Maori raise voice against Kermadecs move.
The Kermadec sit 1000km northeast of the North Island. Photo / NZ Herald
The Kermadec sit 1000km northeast of the North Island. Photo / NZ Herald

The Maori Fisheries Commission is upping the ante in its fight against the Government's marine sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands.

Te Ohu Kaimoana today kicks off a public campaign, taking out full-page advertisements in the Herald and the Waikato Times which attack the Government for "confiscating the rights of Maori" to fish in the region.

It is the latest step in Te Ohu's bid to defend its fishing rights around the Kermadecs, 1000km northeast of the North Island. It is already challenging the Government in the High Court.

The ads are timed to send a message to Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith before he attends the Iwi Leaders Forum today, where the issue will be raised.

Te Ohu is primed for a fight. It decided this year to delay the distribution of a $74 million fund to its 58 members until the Kermadec case had been resolved.

Chief executive Dion Tuuta said his organisation would wait for Smith's response before deciding whether to escalate the campaign.

"We don't do these sorts of things lightly," he said. "But we feel like we've been forced into it because of the Government's refusal to discuss meaningful solutions to date."

The ad features the Jim Bolger-led National Government signing the "Sealord Deal" in 1992.

"It demonstrates a real gulf between the leadership demonstrated by the Bolger-led Government and the current one," Tuuta said.

The Government says Te Ohu is not entitled to compensation because it has not used its fishing quota in the region. It also said it consulted with relevant iwi about the sanctuary.

Smith says the High Court case will not hold up the 620,000sq km sanctuary, which will open in November.

Sea battle

Sept 29, 2015: John Key reveals plan for NZ's biggest marine sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands. Te Ohu Kaimoana are told hours before.

Mar 15, 2016: A bill to create the sanctuary passes its first hurdle with unanimous support.

Mar 20: Te Ohu Kaimoana launches legal challenge against the Govt. Seafood NZ later begins own claim.

April: Labour, NZ First and the Maori Party say they are reconsidering their support for the bill.

July 22: A select committee says the bill should pass into law, angering Te Ohu.

- NZ Herald

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