June 27, 2008

City Council Committee Agrees to Support Oreti Beach Mataitai Plan


INVERCARGILL CITY COUNCIL committee members last night lent their support behind a bid by local Maori to make about 12km of Invercargill's Oreti Beach a mataitai.

A mataitai is an area or reserve that identifies a traditional fishing ground for the local tribe and sub-tribe who hold customary authority over that area.

In a letter to the council's environmental and planning services committee, Te Runanga o Waihopai spokesman Michael Skerrett said a mataitai would prevent commercial fishing going ahead at the beach and provide the opportunity to manage the fishery back to a healthy and sustainable level.

Mr Skerrett told committee members last night if commercial dredging of the beach started it would alter its structure and destroy toheroa beds which was the main concern.

They wanted to be able to provide toheroa to the marae.

A mataitai would not affect the public's access to the beach, nor would it affect recreational fishing rights unless a bylaw was passed, he said.

"Any bylaws would have to go through public consultation.""People will still be able to do their floundering ... it's mainly about looking after the toheroa." He believed there were about 600,000 toheroa at the beach and wanted to build numbers back up.

Committee members Darren Ludlow, Alan Dennis, Jackie Kruger, Lindsay Abbott and Graham Sycamore last night agreed to a request from Mr Skerrett to write a letter to the Fisheries Ministry in support of the proposed mataitai.

However, Cr Thelma Buck said the proposal needed to first go to the people of Invercargill as it was their beach.

She said she had seen people getting toheroa with shovels in the past, "and they aren't white people" .

She had also seen standover tactics on beaches up north and didn't want to see it at Oreti Beach, she said.

Mr Skerrett said a mataitai would not create any standover tactics.

Tangata tiaka/kaitiaki, nominated by Te Runanga o Waihopai and appointed by the Fisheries Minister, would apply to the Fisheries Minisry for the area of Oreti Beach to become a mataitai, Mr Skerrett said..

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