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New Zealand

Waiheke Island


Conservation benefit: Increased protection of coastal 22,240-acre no-take zone created by Māori group

Date Approved: 06.2024


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

In New Zealand, indigenous Māori tribes (iwi) can create no-take areas as they see fit. They do this by making a pronouncement called a rāhui, which affects a certain area or species. Depending on the circumstances, a rāhui may direct people to stay out of a site entirely, not conduct certain activities there, or stop harvesting certain species. The custom, widespread throughout Polynesia, dates back centuries.

The Ngāti Paoa iwi on Waiheke Island declared a rāhui covering the entire coastline (133.5 kilometers, or about 83 miles) and from it, an area out one nautical mile. The total area is approximately 90 square kilometers, or 22,240 acres. It forbids harvesting four overfished species of shellfish: crayfish, abalone, scallops, and mussels. These species are both ecologically and culturally significant.

A rāhui lasts for two years and is renewed until there is a marked improvement in the numbers of the targeted species. The Waiheke Island rāhui has been in effect since 2021. Given the poor health of the designated shellfish populations, it will likely be in force much longer.

The restrictions of a rāhui are not legally enforceable, but members of the public generally respect the rules as long the reasons behind them are clear. Many recreational fishers visiting Waiheke Island, however, are not aware of the boundaries of the no-take area and don’t understand why it is in place. Members of the Ngāti Paoa iwi are enforcing the rules themselves, and sometimes their clashes with recreational fishermen have resulted in harsh language and damaged gear.

To make the no-take area’s boundaries, regulations, and importance clear to outsiders and avoid conflict, the Waiheke iwi will erect 25 sign boards in strategic areas around the island. They will also produce informational pamphlets for island residents and boaters.

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