Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

National election promise to create recreational fishing-only zones running behind schedule

Government promises to create recreational fishing parks in the Marlborough Sounds and the Hauraki Gulf have failed to gain traction. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Government promises to create recreational fishing parks in the Marlborough Sounds and the Hauraki Gulf have failed to gain traction. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A new fight may be developing between the Government and iwi over fishing rights, this time in the Marlborough Sounds.

Proposals to reserve parts of the Sounds for recreational fishers has angered Maori based at the top of the South Island, and they are urging the Government to abandon the idea.

It comes after a tense battle between the Government and iwi over a proposed marine sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands, which has now been shelved because of a legal challenge by the Maori Fisheries Trust Te Ohu Kaimoana.

The National-led Government promised during the election campaign to create two recreational fishing parks in the Sounds and the inner Hauraki Gulf.

Environment Minister Nick Smith had originally said he hoped to have legislation before Parliament by the end of 2016. He has since amended that, saying a decision about the parks will have to wait until this year.Smith would not comment further, except to say the Government was still considering submissions. It was not known whether iwi opposition to the parks has caused the delay.

The iwi who are challenging the recreational fishing parks - Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia, and Rangitane o Wairau - were at the heart of the foreshore and seabed debate in the late 1990s.

The combined fishing trusts of those iwi, known as Te Tau Ihi Fisheries, said the recreational fishing parks "usurp the historical and traditional rights of ... iwi to exercise tino rangitiratanga over our fisheries".

The parks "directly impact on our Treaty settlements", Te Tau Ihi said in its written submission. The iwi also said the proposals gave recreational fishers priority over their customary and commercial rights.

It is the third time in 18 months that Smith has run into trouble over consultation with iwi.

In June, Auckland-based iwi Ngati Whatua sought a judicial review of Smith's policy of selling surplus crown land to developers for housing. The iwi said the policy ignored their right of first refusal.

And Te Ohu Kaimoana said Smith had failed to properly consult on plans to ban commercial fishing around the Kermadecs. The trust said the Government had legislated over a full and final Treaty settlement, and it is challenging the proposed sanctuary in the High Court.

Iwi have not threatened legal action over the recreational fishing parks, but say the proposals are "fundamentally unacceptable and contradict our expectations of the Fisheries Settlement".

- NZ Herald

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