“Te Aupouri has had an ongoing relationship with the Kermadec Islands and ocean region since the beginning of time, as have other iwi.  The Kermadecs have both an historical and contemporaneous relationship with our people,” the Chairman of Te Aupouri, Riki Witana, said today.

“The Kermadec Islands are where we fished, repaired our waka and took respite and refuge on our ocean voyages. It is a place where, in contemporary times, we have fished.”

Mr Witana said the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary initiative as proposed by the Government is ground-breaking and has both national and international significance. Te Aupouri supports this initiative from the perspective of kaitiaki and that iwi will have oversight through governance arrangements established in the formation of the sanctuary.

Te Aupouri was disappointed with the level of consultation by the Crown prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement at the United Nations. Mr Witana was contacted by the Environment Minister, Hon Nick Smith, only a matter of hours before the PM’s announcement at the UN and informed about the sanctuary proposal. That level of discussion and involvement was vastly inadequate.

This has been remedied since the announcement and Te Aupouri will be included in the governance of the proposed Ocean Sanctuary. “As kaitiaki, Te Aupouri expects full and effective involvement in governance of the sanctuary, and that what will and will not occur in the Kermadecs in the future will require our agreement,” Mr Witana said.

In supporting the Kermadec initiative, Te Aupouri believes that Māori fishing rights, as determined and agreed through the 1992 Māori Fisheries Settlements (Deed of Settlement and Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992) must not be extinguished unilaterally, and the Government needs to meet with iwi and their representatives to resolve this situation.

“Each and every iwi in Aotearoa have rights to fisheries in the Kermadec region through the Māori Fisheries Settlement. It is up to each iwi, therefore, to make their own decisions in relation to the Kermadec sanctuary and their own rangatiratanga. Te Aupouri is comfortable with its decision,” Mr Witana said.

“The Kermadec sanctuary does not have to be one thing or the other. It can achieve the protection measures desired by the Crown as well as respect and recognise the rights and interests of iwi and Māori,” he added.

“Te Aupouri is happy to be a part of this initiative. We see it as a way of contributing to the health of the ocean and the marine environment and where the entire world gets to witness the concept of kaitiakitanga,” Mr Witana said.