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Maori fisheries : Legislative control, 1840-1983 : a dissertation in partial completion of a Diploma in Natural Resources [Centre for Resource Management, University of Canterbury and Lincoln College]

Suggate, Richard
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management , ANZSRC::050209 Natural Resource Management , ANZSRC::1802 Māori Law
Before the arrival of the European, Maori fishing grounds were controlled by particular tribe and hapu. The marine resources were part of Papatuanuku and the local Maori as tangata whenua had a spiritual trusteeship for this resource. Custom would limit harvesting time and quantity and ensure the food supply was not polluted. "The evidence clearly demonstrates that the Maori both in the past and today has shown an impressive ecological insight. He (sic) is conscious of the need to conserve and preserve what is there and this is exemplified by his teaching the growing generations his ancient customs, priorities and procedures of fishery" (Waitangi Tribunal, Feb 1978). In contrast to this the European on their arrival in New Zealand initially treated the fish resource as inexhaustible; hunting whales and seals into near extinction and more recently other marine species beyond their sustainable yield. Limits placed on harvesting of acclimatised and indigenous species have been applied to the whole population and with greater concern for commercial interests than for the rights of the Maori people. Two hundred years later the two major threats to Maori fisheries are exploitation by Pakeha users and pollution from various land based but water-borne effluent. This study has focused on the piecemeal legislation that set aside areas for exclusive Maori use; despite the guarantee under the Treaty of all their fisheries and the subsequent failure to compensate for their seizure and ongoing utilisation. It also analyses current legislation to determine what residual rights are protected from European usage, or pollution. The failure to adequately ensure Maori control of their fisheries over the past 140 years has been a basis for continued grievance. The mythology of national development, (which is a pakeha misnomer for the careless exploitation of renewable and non-renewable resources), has little consideration for the indigenous culture and custom of New Zealand. "It is clear that in many areas of the country a great credibility gap exists between Maori aspirations and the engineering, legal and political process'' (Gunn,1983). This conflict between the careless utilisation of water and earth and the traditional Maori reverence for it was crystallised by the determined action of the Te Atiawa people opposing a further pipeline pumping effluent over their reefs. The subsequent acceptance by the Government of the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal has meant that every Maori resource guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi that is currently under threat, is a potential source of claim before the Tribunal. To avoid further costly reversals to its 'development strategy' the government will have to reconsider the administration and content of legislation controlling land and water resources, to allow the incorporation of stronger Maori interests. Such possible changes to legislation to reinstate the customary fishing rights guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi are discussed in the later sections of this dissertation.
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