Just before dawn in Doubtless Bay a handful of competitors tried to launch from the Taipā boat ramp.
But around 40 Ngāti Kahu protestors held firm in their blockade – some had even stayed in tents at the site overnight.
“We had say five boats try and come in. The police are at the front there trying to turn people around. But some are just real blatant shit-stirrers coming down here to pick a fight with us,” protest organiser Wikatana Popata said.
The Doubtless Bay Fishing Classic wouldn’t see it like that. They’ve been running a competition here for more than 40 years and regularly draw about 500 contestants.
Popata believes the organisers should have consulted iwi before staging the event and is concerned about overfishing.
“They’re ignorant enough to not come and talk to us, they should know tangata whenua have authority over our land and seas. Come and work with us,” he said.
He also said the protest is a response to the Government’s proposed Bill to redefine the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The two groups had a hui on Friday but came to no agreement.
“We don’t want to keep doing these protests and closing things off but if the Government isn’t going to listen and Pākehā aren’t going to listen and consult us, you’re going to see this amongst Māori through the country,” Popata said.
“We were given various ultimatums by the group. A lot of it is political leverage. They are trying to exert using us, a fishing contest, for the local community, as their crowbar,” Doubtless Bay Fishing Classic organiser Nick Ryan said.
Ryan runs the fishing event and said numbers have been affected by the protest.
“I have had calls from people who are a bit scared about the situation. Local businesses are hoping it won’t affect them in any way shape or form,” he said.
Some boaties not involved in the competition were turned away from the Taipā ramp too. But some were happy enough to use other nearby jetties.
“Gonna cost extra cash to go to the next jetty but I think this one-off is about being supportive of Ngāti Kahu’s stance today so that’s not a problem,” one boatie told Newshub.
Police have been on site since 5am and remained there throughout the day to respond to any issues. On Friday they handcuffed and briefly arrested Popata.
“It’s not about the arrest, it’s about the protection of our moana,” Popata said.
The fishing competition runs until Sunday and protesters say they’ll continue the blockade until it’s over.