18 Nov 2014

Pasifika leaders take aim at net ban

8:24 am on 18 November 2014

Pasifika leaders in Auckland are questioning the motives behind a proposal to ban set-net fishing this summer at a traditional holiday spot for many south Auckland families.

View from Shakespear Regional Park towards Tiritiri Matangi Island.

View from Shakespear Regional Park towards Tiritiri Matangi Island. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Auckland Council says set-nets, which hang from floats and are anchored to the sea bed, are a safety risk to swimmers, windsurfers and kitesurfers at Shakespear Regional Park.

But its Pacific Peoples' Advisory Panel isn't convinced, and says a ban would unfairly deprive Pasifika families of food and an amenity that's meant for every Aucklander.

Deputy chair Sefita Haouli said members had yet to see evidence to justify a ban.

The regional park is surrounded by rapidly growing, well-to-do suburbs on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in north Auckland

Mr Haouli suspected there was an element of local residents not wanting Pasifika families from south Auckland in what they saw as their park.

"This is part of Auckland moving out into the green areas and I think unless there is good data to tell us there is real concern, then we would need to dig a little deeper in order for this to be justified.

"Otherwise we would be unfairly disadvantaging people from their normal use of the beach."

The council said it had been getting complaints for several years about setnets at Shakespear Regional Park.

In a random survey of 216 visitors last summer, 11 suggested a setnet ban. So did nine submitters on a public safety and nuisance bylaw.

Advisory panel member Ava Fa'amoe also wants to know whether there are genuine safety risks or whether "it's just people that prefer not this kind of activity in their back yard".

He said setnetters should not be singled out as the most dangerous.

"I'm sure the netfishing people would say it's the jetskiers or the kitesurfers."

Shakespear Regional Park

A final decision on the proposal to ban setnets from Shakespear Regional Park is due on 27 November. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Mr Fa'amoe said many Pasifika people fished at Shakespear not as a hobby but as a necessity to help feed their families.

He wanted councillors to look closely at "just how true and legit" the complaints were from local residents and to balance that with the needs of those taking fish to support their families.

Panel member Reece Autagavaia was born in south Auckland and grew up camping at Shakespear with his family every summer.

He said being told to stop something he had done since birth felt like "someone's taking part of my identity as a New Zealander, as a Samoan New Zealander".

Mr Autagavaia says there aren't many beaches in south Auckland for camping and Shakespear isn't just for local residents.

"Having one group of people dictate an activity for the rest of the users of the park, I think there's a danger there of marginalising and keeping people away from an area that should be accessible to everyone."

Sefita Haouli said rather than excluding one group, the council should be educating all users to share.

"The sea belongs to fishermen and people who use it for swimming and other users like jetskiing and windsurfing. It's not difficult to try and ensure these people do get on well on the beach for whatever activities they might want to pursue."

The proposal to ban setnets was approved on Monday by Auckland Council's bylaws committee and is due to go to the governing body for a final decision on 27 November.