A man has sought to rely on customary fishing rights in appealing a sentence imposed for an offence under the Fisheries Act in a recent High Court case.

The man, who resided on an island occupied for hundreds of years by two hapu, had earlier pled guilty to obtaining a benefit by selling large quantities of paua and kina in circumstances where he had no licence to do so.

Letters from three tribal authorities were received in the District Court, condemning the offending and raising concerns with the disregard for tikanga and customary management practices handed down from tupuna.

The District Court Judge noted that the scale of the offending was such that it constituted approximately 32 percent of the allowable take in the whole fisheries area.

In the High Court, it was accepted that aspects of tikanga could be taken into account on sentence.

However, Justice Heath concluded that, whatever might have been said about this, the comments made by other tangata whenua of the island showed the appellant’s views were “not universally shared”, and that there was no basis on which the sentence could be reduced to reflect Maori customary values. The appeal was dismissed.

Emily Stretch
Senior Solicitor
Wellington