National | Ministry of Fisheries

No end in sight for Motiti Islanders

The Motiti Rohe Moana Trust won rulings in the Environment and High Courts over laws which gave local councils powers to regulate fishing in order to protect native species.  However three commercial fishing organisations are seeking to overturn the High Court's decision in the court of appeal today.

Motiti Islanders are fed up with the drawn out legal processes that have had them tied up in litigation since the Rena wreck on the Astrolabe Reef in 2011.

It's been a long and arduous struggle for the small community of Motiti Island.

Project Manager of the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust, Hugh Sayers says, "It has taken its toll on our kuia and our koroua because the process has been far too long and the ongoing work on the island and coastal areas has been difficult.  The Crown has also drawn these processes out too."

In 2018, the High Court ruled to give local councils powers to regulate fishing to protect native species.  Now the fishing industry is threatening to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sally Gepp, an environmental lawyer with Forest and Bird, says, "We hope they can achieve some resolution.  It's really great to see the Crown has moved its position and its now no longer taking a position that there's no ability to control fishing at that local level."

Three major fishing industry bodies are challenging the High Court's decision of 2018.  They are the NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council, Fisheries Inshore NZ and the Pāua Industry Council.

Gepp says, "In a nutshell they're saying that the High Court got it wrong because the Fisheries Act covers the field, the Fisheries Act is all you need to control fishing and any local controls would be contradictory and undermine the Fisheries Act regime."

Sayers says, "It was the ministers of the time that didn't do their jobs properly to protect the ocean marine life."

All three commercial fishing bodies declined to talk to Te Ao Māori News today.

Gepp says, "Now we're battling with the fishing industries that're still trying to keep things up at the government level where they obviously get a major say and keep local communities and tangata whenua out and so that's our battle today."

It's been almost 8 years since the 2011 Rena disaster, a 47,000 tonne vessel laden with 1386 containers, 11 carrying hazardous substances.  Its affects on the local community still evident today.

The Resource Management Act helps to protect the marine environment and allows local communities to replenish and restore the integrity of the environment in crisis.