New community model for Mimiwhangata

11 Aug 2014

One of our newest staff members, Carmen Hetaraka, is working on an iwi-led proposal backed by Forest & Bird to establish a rahui tapu (marine protected area) in one of our richest marine environments: Mimiwhangata. 

The application is to be done in conjunction with a Treaty of Waitangi claim that will allow the two hapu area  to co-govern the sea and surrounding coastal area with the crown under an ecologically sensitive business model. 

To restore this area, Te Whanau Whero of Whananaki, Te Uri o Hikihiki and Forest & Bird are proposing a rahui tapu (no-take reserve) flanked by customary fishing areas on either side. 

“We wanted to introduce some totally new thinking around marine reserves and how they’re managed,” says Te Uri o Hikihiki co-ordinator Carmen Hetaraka.  

“As well as providing a home for whales, turtles and over 70 types of sub-tropical fish this area  contains archaeological pa sites, wahi tapu and traditional sea-bird harvesting areas, so we could use this to lift its educational and eco-tourism profile and turn it into a home-grown attraction,” he says.

Overfishing from the 1950s to the 1970s devastated the marine life in the area and in 1984 it was declared a marine park. 

Over a ten year period commercial fishing was phased out however recreational fishers armed with sophisticated fishing gear came in greater numbers, so the marine life has not had the chance to recover. 

The two local hapu are seeking to co-govern the whole catchment with the Crown and work towards creating an environment where scientists, business leaders and educationists work hand in hand with tangata whenua. 

  “It will create a whole new vision for the area and work to increase greater connectedness amongst locals. We want our young people and local business leaders to become more connected to this taonga and one of the best ways of doing that is working with community conservationists and marine scientists.”

Forest & Bird hopes that this precedent setting model will encourage like-minded groups to revitalise their local marine wildlife with a view to revitalising their local community too.