Marae lays complaint over Fisheries Union comments

A complaint has been laid with the Human Rights Commission over statements made by the union representing fisheries officers, a spokesman for Potaka Marae on the East Coast said today.

The complaint was in response to a statement by National Union of Public Employees spokesman Martin Cooney.

Mr Cooney said fisheries officers should not take part in any action against the marae's suspected illegal marine project, 17km east of CapeRunaway, until they had been issued with safety equipment including stab proof vests.

The marae's Jason Koia said the union was "scaremongering" with statements that an operation against the marae project could lead to violence.

He also rubbished a further statement by Mr Cooney yesterday that the union had received a warning from the Aotearoa Native Police, that officers involved in an operation would be guilty of treason and would be arrested.

Mr Koia said he had never heard of the Aotearoa Native Police.

The union was supposed to have been faxed a handwritten message but it could not have come from the Potaka Marae because there was no fax there, he said.

The Potaka people were proceeding with their aquaculture project and he expected it would be ready for launching in six to eight weeks.

The public would be invited to see the strategy and Mr Koia was sure they would realise how positive it was.

Following the union's statement, Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope said no fish farm had been established so there was no need for inspections.

His spokesman told NZPA today that if the situation changed, he would review it.

The Ministry of Fisheries has taken court action against unlicensed marine farmers in the past.

Last September, the Court of Appeal ruled that marine farmers could not erect structures in the water for marine farms until the ministry had granted the necessary permit.

A marine farm must have resource consent from a local authority as well as a marine farming permit issued by the Ministry of Fisheries.

Marine farmers had contested that they could erect farm structures on the basis of only a coastal permit.

Earlier this month, the ministry served notices of default on 20 oyster farms in Waikare Inlet in the Bay of Islands because the leaseholders were not meeting obligations under their marine farm leases.