Regional | Mussels

Police involvement in Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē dispute must be avoided, Fisheries Minister

Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash.   Photo/File.

Police involvement in the dispute over the harvesting of mussel spat at Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (Ninety Mile Beach) must be avoided, Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash says.

The Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash told Te Ao with Moana that the best option is to find a resolution to the dispute that meets everyone's needs and steers clear of police intervention.

“What I don’t want to do is have a situation where, you know, police are involved and, you know, we end up with a whole lot of acrimony when I believe there’s an opportunity to work together to come up with a solution that meets everyone’s requirements,” Minister Nash said.

The Fisheries Minister said the current situation is "untenable" and a solution must be found.

"You know the way it is at the moment is untenable in the sense you've one group of absolutely key stakeholders who are aggrieved to the point where they are blocking these trucks going back and forth. Now we've got a situation that is absolutely unacceptable to those who are collecting spat and a situation of those that is unacceptable to the guardians of this beach, so we need to find a solution to this."

Minister Nash, who was responsible for signing off on an increase in the commercial catch of mussel spat from Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē, said the green-lipped mussel is "a really important export earner for NZ" and that harvesting of spat from the beach needed to continue but this had to be done in an environmentally sensitive manner.

"One of the things I did say when I sent a letter out saying we are increasing the total allowable commercial catch, and I was very clear about this, it has got to be collected in a way that is acceptable, that is friendly to the environment. We can’t go in there, or the people collecting this can’t go in there, and run roughshod over Ninety Mile Beach and treat it like a highway.”

The Fisheries Minister said he did not know how the current situation had come about given "the collection of spat has been going on for a long time" but he was determined to find the answer.

"But either they’re doing something differently or something has changed and I need to get to the bottom of this."

The Minister said he would not rule out reviewing the mussel spat quota at Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē.

"I think because of what has happened there I’ll say to my officials that I do want this reviewed for October next year simply because the impact it seems to be having is not what I envisaged when I increased it last time."

Minister Nash also said he would consider ways of increasing the number of inspectors on the beach.

“What I will do again is ask my officials if in fact this is a situation we do need to look at, you know, do we have a special need where I can build a business case by either going to the Minister of Finance and say 'hey I need a little bit more money for my fisheries officers' or I say to the head of Fisheries NZ we need to do little bit of reallocation of current resource.”