This is not the end-point, this is a beginning
Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton opened the first freshwater mataitai today at Mataura River in Southland and said that the vision for this reserve is a vision for an asset that benefits everyone.
"It is a vision for a healthy fishery, where we take care of our natural environment and respect our social and cultural needs as well," Jim Anderton said at the opening. "Local councils - Environment Southland, Gore District Council and Clutha District Council - had to work along side DOC, fish and game and industry to develop the mataitai. The mataitai reserve aims to bring everyone together in managing the eel fishery and the factors that affect it.
"This mataitai reserve is the first freshwater mataitai reserve in New Zealand.
Its status as a mataitai identifies this as an important place for customary food gathering. It means commercial fishing is not allowed. Instead, the guidance of the kaitiaki will manage recreational fishing and customary harvest.
"It's a sign of our growth as a modern country that our formal arrangements reflect the relationship. The river flows through ten kilometres of industrial areas, farms and bush, so the community has to work together across everyone who has an interest in the health of this river.
"The creation of the mataitai reserve is not an end-point. This is a beginning. Proposals for managing the reserve include an intention to do research on maintaining the river as a productive fishery. We'll need to learn more about the fishery and its habitats. This won't always be easy. For example, didymo has been recently confirmed in this river.
"As Minister of Biosecurity I have seen rivers all over New Zealand affected by this disease. Short of killing the river, it is difficult to manage and can't, at present, be eradicated. But it needs to be controlled. Co-operation across agencies and the community will be needed. The tangata whenua now have a custodianship role in meeting these challenges.
"We will need to work constructively and co-operatively across the community to help ensure this fishery thrives. I pay tribute to everyone who has brought us to the marking of this date. As the first fresh-water mataitai reserve this event is unique. And I hope the new arrangement marks the beginning of a growing resource - a cleaner river, a more abundant harvest and a closer relationship between everyone who depends on the river," Jim Anderton said today.