Overriding customary and property rights in Kermadecs not acceptable

The Government can hardly claim it was not given due warning by Maori and the wider seafood industry over concerns about the sudden declaration of a Kermadecs Ocean Sanctuary.
  A letter to Prime Minister John Key on Nov 30 set out the industry’s objections and proposed a workable compromise.
 The respectful, carefully couched letter on behalf of Seafood NZ and Te Ohu Kaimoana, prepared by Chapman Tripp’s Bruce Scott, requested the Government work collaboratively.
 It stressed support for the Kermadecs sanctuary in principle. It is the proposed complete “no take” that is at issue and the consequent undermining of the Quota Management System.
 The fishing industry, along with iwi and most New Zealanders, supports marine protection.
 What it does not support is overriding of customary and property rights.
  As a result the Government this week found itself facing a legal challenge brought by Te Ohu that could impact on the Kermadecs legislation currently before Parliament.
 That confrontation between the Crown and Maori in particular could so easily have been avoided if the legislative requirement to properly consult was taken seriously.
 TOKM chairman Jamie Tuuta said the Crown’s 1992 Sealord fisheries settlement provided Maori with customary fishing rights and guaranteed full consultation “on matters relating to the management of fisheries and ecosystems”.
 That had not occurred, Mr Tuuta said.
 The Cabinet paper on the proposal recognised that Te Ohu would need to be consulted “to ensure there is no perceived or actual undermining of the Fisheries Settlement and to ensure that no additional administrative anomalies are inadvertently created”.
 But Mr Key went ahead and announced the proposal to world leaders at the United Nations.
 The advice to Cabinet characterised the quota allocated for stocks in the Kermadecs zone, known as Fisheries Management Area 10, as “nominal quota”, the allocation of which was an “administrative quirk” and which has “no value”.
 The paper proposed no compensation be paid for the taking of industry quota rights, because it could be justified on the grounds of “sustainability”.
 That is despite their being no evidence the limited stocks being fished are under threat. 
 A similar sustainability argument, equally facile, has been used to justify establishment of recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds, also announced without consultation.
 The purpose of those parks is two-fold – to  encourage recreational fishers to catch more fish and to garner votes in Auckland.
 Dressing it up as a sustainabilty measure fools no one. 
 A reasonable Kermadecs compromise would be to pay compensation for lost quota, or allow the limited surface long lining of migratory species, which poses no risk to the ecosystem and the benthos, to continue.
 “The seafood industry has long recognised the intrinsic values of the Kermadec region,” the industry said in its letter. “To that end it voluntarily closed the whole area to any form of fishing that involved a material impact on the seabed anywhere within FMA10. The industry’s Benthic Protected Area was subsequently regulated. This should amply demonstrate the seafood industry’s commitment to the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems even over very large areas.”
 The approach by the Government on the Kermadecs and the related Marine Protected Areas Bill show all the hallmarks of a third-term administration relatively untroubled by a weak Opposition becoming cynical, careless and arrogant. 
 The Prime Minister as good as confirmed that when he said Parliament is “supreme” and can “pass whatever laws it wants”.
 To a point Prime Minister, to a point. There are important constitutional, parliamentary and societal norms that moderate and inform the use of those sovereign powers, as pesky as those may be.
 It is spurious to claim, as Mr Key and Minister Smith have done, that Maori were not catching fish in the Kermadecs zone, therefore their rights lapsed.
 In that case, any undeveloped land in Auckland could be taken by the Crown to relieve the housing shortage. Why not? It’s not being used. That is the absurdity of the Government’s reasoning.
 But there is a precedent. In the 1860s the Government seized Maori land because it was not being farmed.