Customary fisheries and traditional fishing-grounds
The customary fishing regulations formally recognise the
special relationship between tangata whenua and places
of spiritual and cultural importance.
Through them, iwi and hapū manage their non-commercial fishing
in a way that best fits their local practices, and has minimum
impact on the fishing rights of others.
To use the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapū groups
decide who has tangata whenua status over defined areas or rohe
moana. This status can be shared by a number of iwi and hapū
groups, who then choose and nominate people to act as guardians
for particular fishing-grounds. These are called Tangata Kaitiaki
in the North and Chatham Islands, and Tangata Tiaki in the South
and Stewart Islands.
Tangata whenua can also ask for special management areas
– ‘mātaitai reserves’ and ‘taiapure-local fisheries’ – to cover
their traditional fishing-grounds.
Mātaitai reserves help to ensure fisheries resources are available
for customary food-gathering. Mātaitai reserves allow guardians
to manage their fisheries sustainably for customary purposes.
Within mātaitai reserves, guardians can recommend bylaws to
the Minister of Fisheries to change the rules for customary and
recreational fishing. Normally, commercial fishing is not allowed
within these reserves, but guardians can recommend regulations
to the Minister of Fisheries to restore limited commercial fishing.
Bylaws for non-commercial fishing within reserves must apply
equally to all people, with only one exception; if a reserve is closed
for general harvesting, guardians may allow seafood to be taken
to meet the needs of the marae belonging to the tangata whenua
of the reserve.
A taiapure-local fishery may be established in an area that has
customarily been of special significance to an iwi or hapū as a
source of food, or for spiritual or cultural reasons. A taiapure-local
fishery can be established over any area of estuarine or coastal
All fishing (including commercial fishing) can continue in a taiapure-local
fishery, allowing tangata whenua to become involved in the
management of both commercial and non-commercial
fishing in their area. The management committee for a taiapure-local
fishery can provide advice and recommendations to the
Minister of Fisheries for regulations to manage local fisheries.
Currently eight mātaitai reserves have been established –
three in the North Island: Hawke’s Bay, eastern Bay of Plenty
and Aotea Harbour; and five in the South Island: Banks Peninsula,
Lyttelton Harbour, Stewart Island, Kaka Point and the Mataura
River. Several other iwi and hapū groups have lodged or are
planning to lodge applications.
Eight taiapure-local fisheries have also been established – five
in the North Island: southern Wairarapa, Bay of Plenty, southern
Hawke’s Bay, Northland and Waikato areas; and three in the
South Island: Banks Peninsula, Delaware Bay and East Otago.
Without the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapū can only
take fish for important events under provisions contained in the
recreational fishing regulations. The regulations enable marae to
honour guests by providing seafood at events like hui and tangi. It gives no more control over their fisheries than this, and does not
provide for other types of customary purposes or management.