The Ministry for Primary Industries has publicly notified proposed new Te Arawa Lakes Fisheries Bylaws which aim to protect the sustainability of freshwater taonga species and recognise traditional Te Arawa fishery practices.
The proposed bylaws have been developed by Te Komiti Whakahaere, the Te Arawa Fisheries Committee, which sits within Te Arawa Lakes Trust.
They have been developed over several years with extensive engagement with government agencies such as MPI and the Department of Conservation, relevant organisations such as Fish and Game, and hapu around the region.
The proposed bylaws apply to the Te Arawa lakes within the Te Arawa fisheries area but do not include the streams and rivers flowing into the lakes or Lake Rotokakahi.
The trout fishery is also excluded from the new proposed bylaws.
Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Sir Toby Curtis said the proposed bylaws were one of the actions in the Mahire Whakahaere - Fisheries Management Plan and would enable Te Arawa to manage and enhance the sustainability of its freshwater taonga, including koaro, koura, tuna, kakahi, inanga, and morihana.
"The public notification of the bylaws is a significant milestone for Te Arawa. It has been nine years in the making and it has taken a great deal of work to reach this point.
"It has been a long journey but much has been learnt, and the future of our freshwater taonga is now looking much more positive.
"The aim of the mahire is to ensure the sustainability of our customary fisheries and to maintain an abundance of nga taongo ika [freshwater species] for our manaki [future generations]."
Sir Toby said the freshwater taonga were a customary and traditional food source for Te Arawa but they had been in decline for some time – some to the point where few relic stocks remained.
"Our world has already lost so many of our native species and it's imperative that we take steps now in order to protect it for the future."
The mahire identified actions that would also enable the assessment of taonga stocks and their abundance and health, promote customary fisheries practices consistent with Te Arawa tikanga and kawa, prevent the degradation of the freshwater habitat, and help ensure that nga taongo ika were healthy and fit for consumption.
"Our vision is that the Te Arawa taonga fishery is healthy, plentiful and sustainably managed, to ensure that our people have appropriate access to this fishery and that our tikanga and customary practices are promoted and recognised."
Sir Toby said the proposed bylaws set careful restrictions on the size, quantity and methods for harvesting taonga species.
"Some of our freshwater taonga are under genuine threat, and we need to take appropriate steps in order to protect and ultimately replenish them."
As a result, the bylaw proposed a total closure of the koaro fishery, in order to protect the remaining relic koaro. Part of the proposed bylaw also limited harvesting of the six freshwater taonga species to Te Arawa iwi, and for customary and cultural purposes only.
"In particular, this will allow time to undertake research on the state of our taonga species across all of our lakes," Sir Toby said.
The proposed bylaws were officially notified by the director-general of MPI last week, and the full notification was available here.
The public notification called for submissions by March 16 and members of Te Arawa and the public were encouraged to review the full proposal and make a submission.