Mataitai reserves are created in areas of traditional importance to Maori for customary food gathering. Within them, tangata whenua are authorised by the Minister of Fisheries under s.23 of the Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations 1998 to manage and control the non-commercial harvest of seafood through a local committee.
A tangata tiaki/kaitiaki can recommend bylaws to manage customary food gathering in keeping with local sustainable management practices, and issue customary food authorisations
Mataitai reserves are permanent, though the bylaws can change over time. Once a mataitai reserve is established, commercial fishing is not allowed unless recommended by the tangata tiaki/kaitiaki. Both Maori and non-Maori may fish in mataitai reserves.
As for results, it is difficult to say because mataitai are as much about controlling management process as marine life outcomes. Because few have been established and fewer monitored it is not possible to predict what might happen in any particular proposed mataitai. There are none in Northland but an application for a mataitai in the western Bay of Islands is still pending a decision by the Minister of Fisheries.