South Island Customary Fishing Regulations

South Island Customary Fishing Regulations

Image: Rāhiri waka near Kaihinu Pā in Kura te Au.

South Island Customary Fishing Regulations | Introduction 

Te Ātiawa Trust is currently engaged in a process to enter into the South Island Customary Fishing Regulations (SICFR). These regulations are a mechanism for us to legally protect and maintain our customary food gathering areas.  

The information on this page has been prepared to update our iwi members on this kaupapa and to increase understanding of Te Ātiawa Trust’s strategic position in relation to entering the SICFR.  

We acknowledge that the decision-making and negotiation processes around this kaupapa started in 1999. We are grateful to the whānau who have led Te Ātiawa Trust through the many chapters to this point.  

If you have any pātai, please feel free to contact us at  



Following the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act in 1992, the South Island Customary Fishing Regulations were implemented in 1999 (under the Fisheries Act 1996) to enable the iwi of Te Tauihu to responsibly manage customary food gathering areas in line with our tikanga, practices and values. 

While Te Ātiawa Trust commenced discussions around entering the Regulations with the other iwi of Te Tauihu and the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in good faith, in 2007 we withdrew from the process of entering the regulations, due to two main objections: 

  • The proposed 2007 Map of Management of Customary Fishing submitted by MPI, which did not reflect the customary tikanga boundaries for Te Ātiawa.  
  • The appointment of kaitiaki over the rohe moana (iwi coastal and marine area) – an objection also shared by other iwi.  

Despite numerous attempts between 2007 and 2020 to reach a resolution to these and other iwi objections, none proved successful.  



In 2020, a mediation process was initiated by MPI to resolve the issues that we and other iwi had relating to our overlapping interests across the rohe moana and to ascertain how we may collectively implement the SICFR.  

Since then, and with some delays due to Covid, we have been involved in mediation with the different parties to agree iwi rohe moana for inclusion into the regulations.  

As a group, we have agreed to extend the mediation process until May 2024 to try to meet the requirements of the SICFR and, in particular: 

  • To continue to work with other parties to the dispute on an acceptable resolution of our concerns.  
  • To define areas of authority of tangata whenua, including the identification and agreement of rohe moana for each iwi.  
  • For each iwi to nominate kaitiaki across its rohe moana.  
  • To formally adopt the regulations  - with a provision that a tikanga-led kaitiaki framework be developed to manage and administer the customary fisheries within Te Tauihu (see ‘Kawenata’ below) 

If iwi cannot reach an agreement in mediation, we will be forced into the next stage of the dispute resolution process - arbitration.  

Arbitration is legally binding, with little recourse to action should the outcome be unfavourable.  

We are working with the other iwi of Te Tauihu to avoid this outcome as we collectively understand the risks involved.   

Image: Whānau diving in Tōtaranui as part of the diving skills wānanga to introduce wāhine into our moana as kairuku. 

Te Ātiawa Trust | our position 

Te Ātiawa Trust’s position in entering into the SICFR has always been to protect our current and future manawhenua/ mana moana iwi position throughout Te Tauihu, including but not limited to Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound) and Kura te Au (Tory Channel). 

The position we have taken since 2007 has been to exclusively protect and uphold our tangata whenua status throughout our rohe moana such as Tōtaranui and Kura te Au.

Four other iwi have since challenged our exclusive tangata whenua claim over these areas.  

Maintaining our position on Tōtaranui and Kura te Au would then trigger the legally binding arbitration process. 

After careful consideration, Te Ātiawa Trust board determined that arbitration carries unacceptably high risk, and is not in the best interest of our iwi members. 

This decision has been based on an analysis of:  

  • Comparable case law  
  • The court’s stance on tikanga and its interpretation 
  • Potential negative implications for our Takutai Moana Claim  


Te Ātiawa Trust have also held multiple hui with whānau members who have contributed significantly in this space over many years to help inform our position. 

In order to avoid arbitration and to best position ourselves for the future, we have agreed to remove our objection – with certain strategic conditions – to allow us to enter the SICFR.  

Entering the SICFR will protect and formalise our customary interests with regards to our fishing rights.

The SICFR will provide us with a higher level of visibility over permits issued and over the active management of the moana, and it will enable us to better fulfil our responsibilities as kaitiaki through improved data collection and analysis, with the use of better systems and processes.  

With these considerations in mind, Te Ātiawa will enter into the SICFR with the condition that the eight iwi of Te Tauihu sign a kawenata to formalise the establishment of a tikanga-led kaitiaki framework as the basis for its implementation.  


Introducing the kawenata | Tikanga-led kaitiaki framework 

A draft kawenata has been circulated to the iwi of Te Tauihu and will be discussed at the final mediation meeting in May 2024.  

Fundamental to the collaborative nature of the proposed tikanga-led kaitiaki framework is the principle of non-exclusivity, which is consistent with Waitangi Tribunal findings, and acknowledges the complex and overlapping interests held by various Te Tauihu iwi across the Te Tauihu Rohe Moana.   

This means that while the appointment of kaitiaki will remain the responsibility of each iwi, customary management of the fisheries resource as kaitiaki will be a shared responsibility undertaken by all iwi collectively.  

Core to this is the establishment of a Taumata Kaitiaki forum, to actively and sustainably manage customary fishing in Te Tauihu.  If this goes ahead, details regarding the forum will be provided as soon as required to all whānau interested in this appointment process.  


Next steps

Tēnei te mihi nui ki ō tātou whānau pūmanawa! Thank you to all who have participated in this process and provided input. We will continue to provide updates on this process, and share the outcome of our final mediation process in May. Please keep an eye on this page, follow the Te Ātiawa Trust Facebook page, and keep an eye out for pānui and hui information regarding this important kaupapa. 


Questions & Answers

We have provided a series of answers to questions that were raised in our SICFR whānau engagement hui to provide further information and context to the SICFR and the mediation process. We encourage you to read these here: SICFR Questions and Answers Page