New bylaws for Rotorua lakes to protect Te Arawa taonga species are now in place.

From now on, anyone who wants to collect fish from freshwater taonga species will need to get a puka whakamana (permit) from Te Arawa. The bylaws also put restrictions on the size, quantity and methods of harvesting taonga species to protect them for the future.

The species covered by the bylaws are: kōura (freshwater crayfish),tuna (eels), kākahi (freshwater mussels), inanga (whitebait) and morihana (goldfish).

The new rules also enforce a total closure of the kōaro fishery because the numbers of kōaro (a less-common freshwater whitebait) are unsustainably low and near extinction.

Fishing for trout does not come under the bylaws, but a fishing licence for trout will continue to be required from Fish and Game.

The bylaws apply to the Te Arawa lakes (Rotoehu, Rotomā, Rotorua, Ōkataina, Rotoiti, Ōkareka, Rerewhakaaitu, Tarawera, Rotomahana, Tikitapu (the Blue Lake), Ngāhewa, Tutaeīnanga, Ngāpouri and Ōkaro) but do not include the streams and rivers flowing into the lakes, or Lake Rotokakahi.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust Chairman, Tā Toby Curtis says the changes are an important step forward for Te Arawa, the lakes and ngā taonga ika (freshwater species), and will help Te Arawa ensure an abundance for mānaki (future generations).

“Our vision is for Te Arawa’s taonga fishery to be healthy, plentiful and sustainably managed.”

Tā Toby says the freshwater tāonga are a traditional food source for Te Arawa, but they have been in decline for some time, so there needed to be a change to help protect and replenish them.

“Our world has already lost so many of our native species and it’s imperative that we take steps now in order to protect our fishery and the lakes for the future.”

Tā Toby says there have been recent cases of people diving to harvest kōura in large numbers. The new bylaw bans SCUBA diving for fish.

“This recognises the value and importance of traditional ways of fishing. SCUBA diving is a risk to long-term sustainability of the fishery, but traditional methods like fyke nets and free diving give the species a chance to regenerate.”

The bylaws were developed by Te Komiti Whakahaere, the Te Arawa Fisheries Committee, which sits within Te Arawa Lakes Trust. The process included extensive engagement with Government agencies such as MPI and DOC, relevant organisations such as Fish and Game, as well as hapū around the region. This was followed by a public submission process.

Information gathered from permit holders (such as the species caught, numbers and location) will be used to build a better picture of the heath and sustainability of lake species over time. People can apply for a permit by emailing pukawhakamana@tearawa.iwi.nz