Waikato River Fisheries Regulations

Waikato-Tainui (Waikato River) Fisheries Regulations 2011

As a user of the Waikato River you need to know how co-management arrangements could affect the taking of fisheries resources.


New Regulations

Fisheries in the lower Waikato River catchment are now co-managed by Waikato-Tainui and the Crown, under the Waikato-Tainui (Waikato River) Fisheries Regulations 2011. The Regulations are a part of a new era of comanagement on the Waikato River and its catchment. 

This new approach will help achieve the overarching purpose of Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010 (the Settlement Act), which is to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations.

Areas of the River

The Regulations operate on the:

  1. stretch of the Waikato River from Karapiro to the River mouth;
  2. stretch of the Waipa River from Ngaruawahia to its junction with the Puuniu River;
  3. tributaries, streams and watercourses that flow into the areas described in points (a) and (b) above; and
  4. lakes, wetlands, beds and banks of water bodies described in points (a) to (c) above.

This area of operation is known as the Waikato-Tainui Fisheries Area. The Regulations do not apply to any part of the coast located next to the Waikato River mouth.

Customary Fishing Authorisations

The Regulations allow Waikato-Tainui to manage customary fishing on the lower Waikato River, through the issuing of customary fishing authorisations (whakaaetanga).

Authorisations are issued by the Waikato Raupatu River Trust (the Trust), and Trust-appointed kaitiaki. Under the Regulations, customary food gathering activities can be undertaken by Waikato-Tainui for management purposes, immediate consumption, or for storage and future use.

The specific purposes that the Waikato River Regulations cover are:

  • a customary purpose (providing food at a hui or tangi, sustaining the functions of a marae or any other customary purpose);
  • educational research;
  • environmental research;
  • enhancing species; and
  • restoring species

Provision for Bylaws

The Regulations also allow Waikato-Tainui to propose bylaws to the Minister for Primary Industries (the Minister) that may restrict or prohibit commercial, recreation and customary fishing. This may be for sustainable utilisation or cultural reasons. The Minister must be satisfied that a proposed bylaw would not have an undue adverse effect on customary, commercial or recreational fishing, before he or she can approve it.

A bylaw may impose a temporary or permanent restriction or prohibition on species, quantity, size limit, fishing method or any matter that is necessary for sustainable utilisation or cultural reasons.

Applying for a Customary Fishing Authorisation

An authorisation for customary fishing must be obtained from the Waikato Raupatu River Trust or a Trust appointed kaitiaki. The Trust can issue authorisations for all customary food gathering purposes, and only they can issue oral authorisations.

Kaitiaki can only issue authorisations for hui or tangi in the first instance. However, the Trust may approve a kaitiaki being given the power to issue authorisations for other customary food gathering purposes.

The applicant must apply for an authorisation at least 24 hours before the fishing activity is to occur. An application may be made within 24 hours only if the particular circumstances justify a shorter time period, and this is approved by the Trust.

When applying for an authorisation an applicant must state:

  • their name and contact details;
  • the names and contact details of other people participating in the customary food gathering activity;
  • the purpose of the customary food gathering activity; and
  • the quantity and species of fish involved

Adhering to the Rules for Customary Fishing

Authorised fishers must have the written authorisation on them at all times, and be able to provide it to a fishery officer on request.

If the authorisation was obtained orally, the fisher must note down the details provided by the Trust and the unique issuing number, and be able to provide this information to a fishery officer on request.

Customary food-gathering under authorisation for hui or tangi, or to sustain the functions of a marae and any other customary purpose must occur within five days of the starting date of the authorisation.

An authorised fisher must report back to the Trust or kaitiaki or whoever issued the authorisation – within five days of undertaking the fishing. Applications for authorisations for educational and environmental research and for enhancing or restoring species must be received by the Trust more than a month before expected commencement. The authorised activity must then be undertaken within 365 days of the starting date of the authorisation.

Authorised fishers who do not adhere to the rules set out in the authorisation are liable to face a fine of up to $10,000 on the first offence, and a fine of up to $20,000 for subsequent offences.

Further information

What fisheries resources are affected by the Waikato-Tainui Regulations?

The Regulations only relate to fisheries resources managed under the Fisheries Act 1996. These do not include whitebait, sports fish such as trout or perch, or unwanted aquatic life such as koi carp.

Who can use the Regulations?

The Regulations allow Waikato-Tainui to issue authorisations to both Waikato-Tainui and non Waikato-Tainui iwi members.

How will commercial and recreational fishing be affected?

Commercial and recreational fishing can continue to occur undisturbed within the fisheries area, unless a bylaw restricting or prohibiting certain fisheries activities is approved by the Minister.

How do bylaws come in to being?

Waikato-Tainui can propose bylaws to the Minister. Any proposed bylaw is subject to public consultation. Proposed bylaws are also subject to an undue adverse effects (UAE) test relating to impacts on customary, commercial, or recreational fishing, to be applied by the Minister. This will determine whether or not the Minister can approve a proposed bylaw.

The Trust can continue to issue authorisations to take fish within an area subject to a bylaw only for the purpose of sustaining the functions of a marae, for example for hui or tangi.

How will the Minister decide whether or not proposed bylaws have an undue adverse effect on fishing?

If the Minister believes that any one of the fishing sectors (customary, recreational or commercial) is adversely affected, the Minister must decline the proposed bylaw as it stands. This is a requirement of section 93(5) of the Settlement Act, which is consistent with the Fisheries Act 1996.

What are the effects of the Waikato-Tainui regulations on other non Waikato-Tainui iwi and hapu?

Non Waikato-Tainui iwi or hapu who have a recognised non-commercial, customary fishing interest within the fisheries area can continue exercising their existing customary rights under regulations 27 and 27A of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986, or the Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998. Non-Waikato-Tainui iwi or hapu can, however, apply to Waikato-Tainui for a customary fishing authorisation under the Regulations.

Can mataitai reserves be established within the area to which the regulations operate?

No. The bylaw-making function of the Regulations provides for similar closure mechanisms to those that occur in mataitai reserves.

What are the offences and penalties of the Waikato-Tainui Regulations?

The offences and penalties set out in the Regulations are consistent with those set out in the Fisheries Act 1996. Enforcement of the Regulations will be undertaken by MPI.