Free-Trade Agreements and Constraints on Maori Fishing Rights in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Authors: Hekia Bodwitch*, UC Berkeley
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Coastal and Marine, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: Indigenous rights, fisheries, New Zealand, Maori, Individual Transferable Quota
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In New Zealand, Maori groups hold over 50% of the nation’s commercial fishing quota rights, in addition to coastal governance and subsistence fishing rights. Maori groups negotiated for these rights in exchange for giving up their aboriginal title and treaty rights to New Zealand’s fisheries. This abdication, formalized in the 1992 Fisheries Settlement, was necessary for the government to implement New Zealand’s privatized fishery management system. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research with Maori fishers, this paper examines why, despite holding fishing and fishery governance rights, Maori groups are unable to mitigate the uneven development experienced in coastal communities since privatization. In doing so, it describes how government programs to intensify in-land dairy production redirects waterways, increases effluent run-off into downstream fisheries, and constrains Maori fishers from accessing the benefits that their fishing rights are supposed to imbue.

In creating economic incentives for farmers to operate in ways that degrade downstream water quality, the New Zealand government has failed to uphold their end of the Settlement agreement. The New Zealand government’s push to increase dairy production is linked to the nation’s 2008 free-trade agreement with China, which increased export demand for milk. Yet, few farmers benefit from the government’s push to convert sheep farms to dairy. In the free-trade era, farmers fund conversions with interest-laden loans from private financial institutions. Motivated by debt, and in the absence of government regulations, dairy farmers have little incentive to curb production practices, despite recommendations from Maori fishery managers to do so.

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