Mana whenua in Kaipara are protesting the reintroduction of trout into Lake Taharoa. The Kaipara District Council's Taharoa Domain committee has voted to approve a Fish and Game application to reintroduce the game fish species into the lake. However, iwi are outraged by the procedure, which they claim does not adhere to co-governance principles.
It has brought into contention how the Kaipara District Council deals with its obligations with mana whenua.
At a meeting of the Taharoa Domain committee, the application made by the Northland Fish and Game Council to reintroduce trout into Lake Taharoa was presented. Trout had been introduced into the lake for more than 70 years but that was stopped in 2019 following concerns by mana whenua Te Roroa and Te Kuihi about the environmental impacts the trout were having on the Dwarf Inanga population, a species only found in Kaipara's dune lakes system.
Māori councillor Pera Paniora was at that meeting.
"There were five Kaipara District councillors to two mana whenua representatives and of the five district councillors, four voted in favour of the reintroduction of trout."
"The Taharoa committee is a co-governance arrangement and the reserve management plan for the Taharoa Domain stipulates quite clearly that there will be an equal representation and equal decision-making."
Te Roroa general manager Snow Tāne says it highlights just how fractured the relationship with the council has been.
"We've got a mayor who has shown he is not that interested in upholding Māori tradition."
"The Taharoa committee is a co-governance committee. But on the day there were five councillors and only two mana whenua representatives, which pretty much threw co-governance out the window."
Fish and Game processes all applications for the introduction of species into New Zealand lakes. Fish and Game New Zealand chief executive Corina Jordan says Fish and Game has a statutory obligation to work with mana whenua.
"Fish and Game has Te Tiriti responsibilities. Partnering with local communities, with mana whenua, and with hapū is of primary importance"
Jordan says after discovering the dissatisfaction that mana whenua has with the proposal the application has been withdrawn.
"Trout will not be released into those lakes without the permission of Fish and Game, the statutory manager of these populations."
Te Ao Mārama reached out to Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson for comment, and he responded by saying:
"The Taharoa committee has recommended the release of trout into the lake. This is simply a recommendation that goes before the full council for a decision on May 31."