Yep, we should all have a customary right to take something and iwi can have Taupo’s trout

Stuff the trout...let's claim rights to the whisky.

Alf has a modicum of sympathy for the prominent Maori leader caught netting trout at Lake Taupo, who says local iwi should be able take fish as a right.

He reckons we should draw up lists of things we can all take as of right. A customary right.

Iwi can have trout. Alf doesn’t much fancy trout. Too many small bones.

People with Scottish whakapapa should be able to lay claim to whisky.

Yep. If they spot it in a bar or a liquor store, they need just pop in, grab the whisky and take it home.

Alf has just a tad of Scottish blood in his veins, but he knows a lot of blokes who have just a tad of Maori blood in their veins. They nevertheless maintain they are Maori and are entitled to all the things Maori to which are entitled.

Should there be a bag limit on the stuff claimed under customary rights?

Nah. If iwi were prepared to put a bag limit on the trout, Alf would go along with a bag limit on the whisky.

But his observations tell him many Maori don’t care much for bag limits. Fish are fair game and they should be able to take as much or as many as they like.

Alf won’t argue with that when it comes to the whisky.

Dunno how many Japanese or Norwegians there might be in New Zealand to lay claim to customary rights. But they would be able to put whales on their lists.

Alf confesses he does not expect to get too far with this idea. He mentioned it to the Attorney-General at lunch in Bellamys the other day and was laughed out of the restaurant before he could get around to the taxpayer-subsidised pudding.

That left him brooding about this cultural entitlement stuff.

He has been wondering about law and order stuff as well, and the example being set for young Maori by their elders, especially in the prison system.

His brooding and wondering were triggered when he read:

Raniera Morehu, 55, a Corrections Department iwi liaison officer, pleaded guilty in Taupo District Court yesterday to three charges of taking seven trout using a net, fishing without a licence and exceeding the maximum daily allowable limit of three trout.

Morehu was one of eight Taupo men who appeared in court yesterday on charges of illegally netting trout in three separate incidents.

Seven of the men pleaded guilty to gill-netting a total of 49 trout in the Waimarino Stream, which was closed for winter spawning, on September 6 and September 26 last year.

The seven – Horowai Apanui, 18, Patrick Apanui, 46, Patrick Apanui Jr, 19, Kahukurangi Elwyn Tahau, 20, Conrad Cypress Wall, 18, Sieste Te Hokimai Posthuma, 17, and Jubilee Matiu-Rhys Pitiroi-Ellis, 20 – were remanded on bail to appear for sentencing in June.

Alf, fair to say, feels real sorry for Morehu, whose lawyer, Taryn Tuari, said the poor bugger was confronted by a conflict between two cultures – Maori and Pakeha.

“He broke Pakeha law to uphold his own law.”

Ms Tuari said Morehu had taken the trout for a tangi. He believed it was his customary right as a kaumatua to gather trout for food.

It looks like he has struggled with this cultural conflict on at least one previous occasion, but lost the battle then, too.

Morehu had been convicted of illegally netting trout 15 years ago.

Should trout – like fish – be treated as a resource to be just taken by those claiming a customary right to it?

Not according to Conservation Department lawyer Mike Bodie, who said the Lake Taupo fishery was funded solely by licences and contributed millions of dollars to the local economy.

The sustainability of wild rainbow and brown trout depended on undisturbed spawning in rivers feeding into the lake, he said.

Oh, and the Court of Appeal has ruled customary rights to gather trout for food did not apply because trout were an introduced species.

Maybe the trout came from Scotland, and maybe Alf could lay claim to them as his customary right.

Then again, he would rather have the whisky.

For now, let the record show that Judge Jocelyn Monro said there was only one law for the court. “There was no right to catch trout without an licence.”

Morehu was fined $900 and ordered to forfeit the fishing net.

But you’ve got to give the bugger full marks for gall.

Outside court, he said he would arrange a meeting between iwi and DOC officials to discuss allowing trout to be caught as a customary right.

“It is possible to have a sustainable fishery if we are allowed customary rights to gather food for whanau.”

Oh, and he also said the poaching would continue unless a solution was found.

Alf has the solution. He has set it out in this posting. Here’s hoping Morehu ses merit in it.

More important, here’s hoping the Government sees merit in it.

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