Working towards meaningful engagement over whitebait

13 Haratua 2020

Te Wai Māori Trust is encouraged by recent engagement with the Department of Conservation (DOC) on the review of the whitebait fishery since it closed public consultation in March 2020.

In our response to DOC, the Trust expressed concern at the lack of consideration of the impact on Māori (including specific provision for īnanga in numerous pieces of treaty settlement legislation), and more generally the limited scope of the review being a missed opportunity to review all pressures facing the species.

“We felt that the absence of consideration of the impact of the review on Māori fell short of DOC’s obligations,” says Te Wai Māori Trust Chair, Lisa Te Heuheu, “Our concern was that the relationship Māori have with traditional waters and taonga species had not been given appropriate recognition. Māori maintain a relationship with the natural environment through sustainable use, and we do not support proposals such as the permanent exclusion of Māori from traditional mahinga kai.”

Te Wai Māori sought further engagement with DOC to develop the way it engages with Māori, to ensure that future engagement about freshwater fisheries is mana-enhancing and Te Tiriti-based.

“Despite our concerns, we have welcomed the opportunity to work closer with DOC, providing advice on outcomes that protect freshwater taonga species and acknowledge te ao Māori principles.”

Te Wai Māori Trust is supportive of the goal to ‘ensure healthy and restored whitebait populations and provide for a sustainable fishery.

“To achieve the proposed outcomes, we need better research, data, compliance, monitoring and enforcement, and we believe this should be a priority for DOC moving forward,” she says, “It will also require further thought to identify what is needed to achieve these aspirations and who will have responsibility for how and when these outcomes will be achieved.”

Read our full response to the consultation by clicking on the document below.