NZ Local News

Far North Doubtless Bay fishing competition protesters vow to continue demonstrations

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Members of a Far North iwi have vowed to continue their protests against a popular fishing contest this weekend.

At least 30 members of Ngāti Kahu blocked the access road to a boat ramp in Taipā today, ahead of the annual Doubtless Bay Fishing Competition.

The event regularly draws about 500 contestants and features a charity fish auction at the end of each day.

Protest organiser Wikatana Popata said as well as the group’s concerns about the number of fish caught during the contest, they believed the organisers should have consulted iwi before staging the event.

Five police officers monitored the protest on Friday.

Senior Sergeant Dan Williams, of Kaitāia police, said the protest remained peaceful, even when about 30 protesters and 20 fishers gathered at the roadblock in the morning.

One person was arrested for obstructing a public way but later released with a warning.

The protest group subsequently met the competition organisers for a discussion.

Williams said he was confident of a good outcome that would allow the contest to go ahead while the group could still air their concerns.

“We’ll continue working with them [the protest organisers] to make sure everyone’s safe and so we don’t have any more people arrested when we don’t need to.”

Following the arrest, ramp users were allowed through once group members had explained why they were protesting, he said.

Police talk to protesters blocking access to a boat ramp at Taipā in the Far North today. Photo / Peter de Graaf, RNZ
Police talk to protesters blocking access to a boat ramp at Taipā in the Far North today. Photo / Peter de Graaf, RNZ

Police would continue to monitor the situation as long as it was needed.

The protest group removed their road cones and a vehicle partly blocking the road just before 4pm.

They resolved to return early on Saturday but to block the boat ramp only, so visitors were free to use the public toilets and access the estuary for swimming.

Popata said the protest was also a response to what he called government moves “to abolish Māori” and in particular a proposal to introduce a bill redefining the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

“It’s now time for Māori to rise up, to intensify the struggle and make a stand.”

He said he was not concerned that he might get arrested again.

The protest does not appear to have wide backing within Ngāti Kahu.

Te Rūnanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu chairperson Margaret Mutu and various hapū leaders, including Taipā Marae chairman David Poharama, said the protesters did not talk to them beforehand and their action did not reflect the views of the wider iwi.

Some said the focus on the fishing competition overlooked the real problem of commercial fishing depleting fish stocks.

It was not the first such protest in Taipā.

In 2021, a 0.8ha property next to the Taipā River that had been put up for sale was occupied for five weeks.

The land, which has historical links to Ngāti Kahu, was subsequently purchased by the government for return to the iwi.

Prior to that, a reserve at Taipā Point, which includes the boat ramp at the centre of today’s protest, was subject to a long-running occupation by Ngāti Kahu.

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