Labour's Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene says a lack of consultation with important iwi stakeholders about the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary could lead to legal challenges.
This statement arose following John Key's announcement on Tuesday that 620,000 km2 Ocean in the Kermadec region will be turned into one of the world's largest ocean sanctuaries.
Tirikatene says “Labour welcomes the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary but we do have concerns the Government’s carefree approach is denying iwi involvement and could lead to legal challenges."
However Environment Minister, Nick Smith says “Ngati Kuri and Te Aupouri – the two northern iwi with connections to the Kermadec Islands – both indicated their strong support for the new sanctuary prior to its announcement. These two relevant iwi have been pushing for the sanctuary proposal and so Labour’s criticism that they were not consulted does not make sense.”
In his announcement on Tuesday, John Key outlined that "Establishing the sanctuary will create a no-take, fully-protected zone preventing all fishing and mining in the area, adding to the protections already in place."
Tirikatene says that some iwi hold quota rights in the area, and both iwi and fisheries companies should have had more of a say.
“Te Ohu Kaimoana hold significant quota for Maori in an area affected by the sanctuary and yet they weren’t consulted. This is a breach of Treaty of Waitangi obligations. Key stakeholders, including iwi, should have been part of the conversation about the Sanctuary before the announcement was made."
Tirikatene also claims Te Ohu Kaimoana was only made aware of this the night prior to the announcement.
However, Nick Smith has dismissed the concerns and says, “Te Ohu Kaimoana were advised of the Government’s decision prior to its announcement. Official records show that no fishing by Te Ohu Kaimoana has occurred in the sanctuary area over the past five years. This is a very remote area where there is fishing carried out by only a few companies, totalling 20 tonnes each year – equivalent to just 0.004 per cent out of New Zealand’s average annual commercial catch of 449,000 tonnes."
Tirikatene says “Closing a fishing area isn’t like closing a paddock. You can’t just move stock elsewhere and say that everyone is satisfied, there are implications and obligations the Government hasn’t considered.”
Nick Smith adds that “All New Zealanders, including iwi and Te Ohu Kaimoana, will have the opportunity to make submissions when the legislation to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is introduced to Parliament.”