Te Arawa propose by-law to protect treasured fish species

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The protection of freshwater fish species and Te Arawa fishing practices are the key focus of proposed by-laws covering 13 Rotorua lakes. Te Arawa Lakes Trust chairman Sir Toby Curtis says treasured fish species of the region are endangered and need to be regenerated.

He highlights the need for these treasured fish species to be sustained and available for future generations.

"For them to eat this type of food, for there to be plenty of these treasured species for those to come, that's the dream of Te Arawa."

Curtis says it's not what it used to be and the treasured fish species are depleted.  "There aren't many left of these species, these treasures, so they're being prohibited."

The proposed bylaws have been developed over several years by Te Arawa Fisheries Committee with local hapū, MPI, the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game and other relevant organisations.

The five by-laws would class kōaro, kōura, tuna, kākahi, inanga and morihana as treasured fish species and set restrictions as well as limit harvesting to Te Arawa iwi for customary and cultural purposes only.

Curtis says, "We have the power and authority under the Treaty of Waitangi to make this law for Te Arawa and all New Zealand." 

The by-laws would cover lakes such as Rotorua, Tarawera, Rotoiti and Rotomā - but not the streams and rivers flowing into the lakes.

"For our children and grandchildren to know and pursue these traditional practices left by our elders," says Curtis.

Members of the public are encouraged to report the capture and re-release of customary fisheries species to the Te Arawa Lakes Trust.