Fisheries are a traditional source of economic and cultural wealth for Ngāi Tahu.
Being able to provide fish or shellfish to feed whānau (family) or manuhiri (guests) is part of the cultural heritage of Ngāi Tahu.
Among other fishing provisions for customary purposes, in New Zealand, the law enables tangata whenua (local Māori communities) to establish special management areas – mātaitai and taiāpure reserves – to cover some traditional fishing grounds.
These fishing laws let iwi (tribes) and hapū (sub tribes) manage non-commercial fishing in a way that best fits the local practice, without having a major effect on the fishing rights of others. Customary fisheries are factored into the total catch limits which are set by the government each year.
Within mātaitai and taiāpure reserves, appointed guardians can bring in changes to the rules for customary and recreational fishing. Guardians can also say whether some types of commercial fishing should continue in taiāpure reserves. Fish taken for customary use within these reserves cannot be traded commercially.
Toitū te Whenua, the Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu environmental team, is working to establish a co-ordinated network of customary fisheries protection areas, throughout the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (territory). This will ensure Ngāi Tahu can maximise the effectiveness of customary protection areas both individually and collectively, whilst minimising the impact on the commercial fishing assets of the tribe.