So who guards the guardians?
Alf is prompted to pose this question on learning that –
A senior Maori guardian of a Hawke’s Bay customary food gathering area is facing charges after allegedly misleading fisheries officers.
Rangi Spooner, 53, of Napier, is the kaitiaki, or guardian, for the area between Napier and Waikare River.
The prosecution of a kaitiaki doesn’t only resurrect the hoary old question of who guards the guardians. It also raises fascinating questions about some of the bollocks we are fed about Maori and their traditional upholding of strong environmental values.
You know the story. Maori protected the environment. Then the bloody Pakeha came along and the devastation began.
One wailing wahine on this topic is Jessica Hutchings. Alf believes she is a lecturer in Maori environmental management at Victoria University and part of Nga Wahine Tiaki o Te Ao Marama (Maori women guardians of the world of light).
A Maori woman guardian of the world of light?
That’s got to be a joke, huh?
Nah. They take this stuff real seriously.
Anyway, Hutchings gives us a good idea of how some Maori see themselves and their conservationist values.
It is impossible to separate Maori values from environmental values. They are one and the same. Pre-colonisation, Maori were entirely dependent on the environment, which in turn shaped and reaffirmed cultural ways of being, beliefs and cosmologies.
Maori relationships with the environment varied from tribe to tribe according to tribal histories, herstories, protocols and geographic tribal boundaries. However, guardianship of the land and resources for secular and non-secular use was pre-dominant. Our kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role sustained and nurtured both tribal nations and our environments.
This relationship creates a dynamic holism within the social, political, cultural and ethical environments, it comes with an inherited inter-generational responsibility to protect.
Today there is still an urgency and deep commitment to maintain this dynamic holistic balance and to protect Maori lands from the cultural pollution of genetic modification which multi-nationals are trying to force onto us.
Wonder what Jessica will make of the case of Rangi Spooner, when she gets around to writing a herstory – ha! – of fisheries guardianship.
Spooner’s Government-appointed position allows him to issue customary fishing permits.
The Dominion Post reported that the Fisheries Ministry said Spooner issued a permit to David Rotarangi, 45, and Jason Brown, 29, allowing them to fish on November 6 and 7.
However, fisheries officers discovered the men on November 8 at Clifton, south of Napier, allegedly with extra seafood – much of it undersized – and the permit altered to include the extra day.
The men told the officers they had called Spooner that morning and had altered the permit with his verbal permission.
It was alleged Spooner told the officers he had taken the call and given the men permission to alter the permit.
However, phone records showed no such call was made.
Fisheries officers said Rotarangi and Brown were found with 59 rock lobster, 51 of which were undersized, and 384 kina.
Customary permits allow holders to exceed the usual daily catch limits, and to catch undersized fish, but because the permit was considered void, the usual catch and size limits applied.
So what are we to make of this affirmation there is one law for one race and another law for others in this country?
Recreational fishers are allowed to take up to 50 kina and six rock lobster per day.
Fair to say, there may well be a good explanation for all this and the accused trio will be found not guilty.
They have been jointly charged with obstructing a fisheries officer while in the execution of his duty and for making a false or misleading statement to fisheries officers.
Rotarangi and Brown also face charges of taking excess and undersize rock lobster and excess kina.
They appeared in Hastings District Court last week and were remanded without plea until next month.
One thing that strikes Alf is that the fisheries officials have built their case around phone calls that were or were not made.
This could well result in the three accused being freed. Telecom has been going through such a rough patch, you wouldn’t want to put too much faith in the credibility of any phone records it might provide.