Environment Court establishes new no-take fishing areas in Northland
15 Dec 2022, 8:45 AM
Appeals against Northland Regional Council’s lack of fishing prohibitions within its Proposed Regional Plan have been upheld by the Environment Court.
The decision, released in November, means all fishing – including recreational - will now no longer be permitted from Maunganui Bay (Deep Water Cove) to Oporua (Oke Bay) in the Bay of Islands as well as around the Mimiwhangata peninsula for the purposes of protecting significant ecological values.
Commercial bulk harvesting of fish is also prohibited in a new area around Rakaumangamanga (Cape Brett) to a depth of approximately 100 metres. The area starts immediately north of Maunganui Bay, passes around Rakaumangamanga and south of Whangamumu Harbour, to end just north of Te Akau (Elliott Bay).
The detail of the new rules, including when they will take effect, is still to be worked out but is expected to become clear once the Environment Court releases its final decision after February 2023.
Exceptions to the no-take rules include kina harvest and activities mostly associated with restoration, research and tikanga such as customary fishing.
Northland Regional Council’s Regional Plan for Northland was publicly notified in September 2017 and did not include fishing controls. This was appealed by the Bay of Islands Maritime Park group and Forest & Bird, with the support of local hapū. They presented evidence which showed a decline in ecological values associated with the impacts of fishing. This included widespread loss of kelp forest and kina barren expansion which was related to low snapper and crayfish populations and small individual size.
The Environment Court process meant public consultation on the no-take rules was not possible, but NRC supported the court’s decision on the basis that significant ecological values were being negatively impacted by fishing in the areas, and because it reflected the concerns of local hapū Ngati Kuta ki Te Rawhiti and Te Uri O Hikihiki.
Council chair Tui Shortland said it was important council now works with iwi and hapū in the implementation areas.
“There is much to be done in partnership with local tangata whenua and communities around how the new rules will be effectively implemented, and we’re committed to having that kōrero and establishing those relationships”, chair Shortland said.
The rule changes have significant implications for council as the regulation of recreational or commercial fishing locations is not a function council has undertaken previously.
“This decision will come as a surprise for those used to fishing in these areas and we know many will feel affected by the changes. We are committed to providing clarity around what the new rule changes mean for our community and will be working with tangata whenua and all stakeholders to make sure the new rules are well understood and communicated”, chair Shortland said.