Kermadecs headline varied Maori Conference

Maori strongly opposed the extinction of iwi and fishing industry rights in the Kermadecs at this week’s Te Ohu Kaimoana conference.

 The proposed no-take sanctuary encompassing 620,000 square kilometres is in direct contravention of the Crown’s obligations to protect the Maori Fisheries Settlement under its Treaty responsibilities, chairman Jamie Tuuta said in a powerful opening address.

 “We need to protect the Kermadecs,” he said. 

 “We have measures in place to do that. We are open to discussion about some change but don’t accept outright and permanent prohibition. 

 “The Kermadec proposal is not as simple as the Government makes out. Maori have rights; the industry has rights. Making policy on the hoof without the inclusion of rights holders is short-term thinking.

 “This doesn’t have to be one or the other – a sanctuary or Maori fishing rights. It can be both.”

 TOKM has lodged legal action against the Kermadecs proposal and is backed by Seafood NZ in this.

 The proposal was driven by the US environmental group, the Pew Foundation, Mr Tuuta said.

 He said Pew was so closely involved it had almost written the Cabinet paper.

 “We do not accept that any foreign NGO should dictate to our Government for the repudiation of inter-generational Maori rights to fisheries.”

 Industry initiatives that are already in place to protect the Kermadecs include a ban on bottom trawling and there are marine reserves out to 12 nautical  miles around the four main islands in the group.

 The sanctuary would prohibit all forms of commercial fishing throughout its vast area, including longlining for high value, migratory tuna species. 

 Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy was unapologetic when he addressed the conference.

 He said the Kermadecs Bill had passed its first reading unanimously.

 “I know you are going through your court challenge. It’s your right to do that.”

 The proposed Marine Protected Areas Bill, which incorporates recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds that would exclude commercial fishing, were also endorsed by Mr Guy.

 He said 5700 submissions had been received, 400 of which were substantial. 

 There would be compensation for affected quota owners and customary rights were not impacted.

 “It is all about improving the recreational fishing experience.” 

 But LegaSea spokesman Barry Torkington said in a panel discussion the proposed legislation was incoherent and there was no basis for it.

 He said most of the tools for recreational parks already existed in the Fisheries Act.

 The proposal looked like a sweetener that included tossing a few commercial fishermen “under the bus”.

 “It doesn’t achieve anything for recreational fishers.”

 The conference was also the launch pad for new branding - Moana New Zealand – for Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd’s various seafood businesses.

 AFL chief executive said there were a confusing number of brands and names. They included Kia Ora Seafoods, Pacific Marine Farms, OPC, Prepared Foods, OceaNZBlue, Oceans Ranch.

Moana would bring to market a range of highly sought after species.

A highlight of the conference is the annual debate, where brave participants need a rhino hide, complete lack of inhibition and unfamiliarity with political correctness. 

Tiaki Hunia was smart enough to get a disclaimer in early.

“I don’t necessarily believe the things I’m about to say.”

Peter Douglas, who is rejoining the public service after 12 years as TOKM chief executive, was said to have been in five debates and had lost four.

His score now stands at 5-1. 

The conference also featured a motivational speaker, hardcase Australian Tom O’Toole, a baker from Beechworth in country Victoria, who has turned a rundown business with turnover of $100,000 to $16 million “cash across the counter”.

“Ya gotta be bold and brave,” he said. “Who wants to follow a dickhead into battle?

“Winners must have goals and burning desires.”

He also noted that when his first wife left him “he fell madly in love with her” and he always held his current wife’s hand “otherwise she’d go shopping”.

A homegrown success story was also presented, that of My Food Bag.

Founder Cecilia Robinson has 30,000 customers and the business has delivered nearly 15 million meals across 16 cities.

It consumes six tonnes of fish fillets from Aotearoa Fisheries every week and has rapidly become New Zealand’s third largest food retailer.