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Maori Fisheries Conference canvasses opportunities for iwi

Media release from Te Ohu Kaimoana (Maori Fisheries Trust)

Maori Fisheries Conference canvasses opportunities for iwi

Iwi owners of commercial fishing quota are having to face some of their biggest business challenges since the 1992 Sealord Deal, the Māori Fisheries Trust, Te Ohu Kaimoana, says.

Important legislative and regulatory changes being worked through Parliament have the potential to shave millions of dollars worth of value off fisheries quota that iwi received through the Māori Commercial Fisheries Settlement with the Crown. Iwi will need to be innovative and work co-operatively to make their fisheries assets work for them in the future.

Consumers of seafood are increasingly demanding greater proof that the fish they buy are caught sustainably and the quality is as good as fishing companies say it is. As such, there are a range of challenges ahead for iwi.

These will be among the issues discussed by iwi leaders as they converge on the Novotel Auckland Airport Hotel on Wednesday 15 May for the 2013 Māori Fisheries Conference. This year, the conference showcases Australian seafood businesses in which iwi have an interest.

Appropriately themed “Traversing the Tasman: the Great Australian Bite”, this year’s conference will also explore the importance of Australia to the New Zealand seafood industry.

Representatives from two Māori aquaculture investments in Australia will address the hui. Charles Heaphy, from King Reef Seafoods in North Queensland, Australia’s largest freshwater barramundi farm, and Dave Ashcroft, from Petuna Seafoods, Tasmania’s largest multi-species business, will anchor the theme of the conference, which will also discuss the fisheries economy, the political environment, and look at local fisheries businesses and issues.

“Australia is still our largest export market and our Māori seafood businesses have made significant aquaculture investments there,” the Chief Executive of Te Ohu Kaimoana, Peter Douglas, said. “Our closest neighbour is the principal export market for the inshore sector and increasing iwi efforts in exporting our shellfish species also provide growth opportunities.”

Mr Douglas said, “The long-term outlook for the New Zealand seafood industry is extremely positive as global demand for seafood continues to grow. We are developing all the ingredients needed to satisfy consumer demand for a high-quality, safe product that is sustainably produced. Iwi are looking for further opportunities to leverage their ownership of quota as well as their access to aquaculture space.”

New legislation and regulations pertaining to the use of Foreign Charter Vessels in New Zealand’s deepwater fishery, however, have the potential of devaluing Māori quota received through the Māori Commercial Fisheries Settlement.

“The boards and directors of iwi organisations and their asset holding companies will need to be more creative if they are to maintain value of their Fisheries Settlement assets,” Mr Douglas said. “With impending and dramatic changes around the use of Foreign Charter Fishing Vessels, iwi will have to consider alternative, innovative options to what has been conventional business practice and work co-operatively to ensure they advance the best business case for their deepwater quota.”

Te Ohu Kaimoana has assessed the effect of the government’s decisions and believes there could be a loss of up to $10 million per year in iwi income across the country, although the true outcome will depend ultimately on the final legislation and subsequent decisions by other market participants regarding provision of boats.

While it has been a little over 20 years since the signing of the Sealord Deal, iwi are still relatively new to the competitive commercial fishing industry, with allocation of the fisheries settlement occurring only since the passing of the Māori Fisheries Act in late 2004.

“The Māori Fisheries Act in 2004 codified a method of allocation to the 57 iwi, who were able to receive assets once they’d instituted approved management and governance structures. In reality, iwi have only recently been provided with the ability to make long-term business decisions related to their individual transferable quota, some only in the last year,” Mr Douglas said.

“The changes to use of charter vessels in the deepwater fishery, which is an important component in the iwi quota portfolio, will have a significant economic impact on iwi.”

Delegates to the Māori Fisheries Conference will also hear from well-known economic and investment adviser Carmel Fisher, the founder of Fisher Funds; the CEO of the newly-established Seafood New Zealand, the successor to the Seafood Industry Council Tim Pankhurst; radio commentator Michael Laws; as well as the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy, among a variety of other seafood industry representatives.

This year’s conference is sponsored by Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, Sealord Group Limited – two companies ultimately owned by iwi organisations; Leigh Fisheries, Te Wai Māori Trust, ANZ Bank, Ngāi Tahu Seafoods Ltd, Te Runanga o Ngapuhi, Ngati Kahungunu Asset Holding Company, Nelson-based law firm Oceanlaw and Hawkes Bay Seafoods.


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