Sealord inks fishing deal with iwi

Sealord and Ngati Kahungunu have signed a fishing deal that they say will provide certainty for both, and increase returns to the North Island iwi.

The Nelson and Auckland-based seafood giant is also hinting that it might mean more investment in its fleet.

For five years with a renewal clause, the agreement will see Sealord catching Ngati Kahungunu's deepsea quota. Neither party would talk specifics other than to say that the iwi would receive more than a million dollars a year from the current catch entitlement of 2100 tonnes.  

Ngati Kahungunu's website says its share of the Te Ohu Kaimoana fisheries asset stemming from the Maori Fisheries Settlement is worth around $50 million.

The third largest iwi, it has more than 61,000 members, making up 9.2 per cent of the Maori population, and is based on the east coast of the North Island. 

Ngati Kahungunu holding company deputy chair Mike Paku said that after the fisheries settlement the iwi did ''dabble'' in fishing on its own account, but ''not all that successfully''.

It had since retreated and leased its annual catch entitlement (ACE) to a range of companies before linking up informally with Sealord two years ago. 

''Ngati Kahungunu and Sealord share a common recognition that quota is taonga that must be protected for future generations and that this can be achieved whilst maximising the income from this valuable asset.'' 

The agreement included a programme to increase training and employment, and would offer stability to the iwi company. 

''It just seemed a prudent decision that we would work with those we already have a relationship established with, and not to be discouraging against Sealord, let's just hope that our participation would help improve their performance,'' he said. 

The deal would open the door to jobs for Ngati Kahungunu.  

''How we develop that is something that we'll manage over the time of the relationship.'' 

General manager of Sealord fishing, Doug Paulin, said the agreement, signed today in Nelson, included a range of species including hoki, bluenose, alfonsino, jack mackerel and oreo.

The ACE would vary each year according the Total Allowable Commercial Catch set by the fisheries minister. 

He said the partnership was effectively in its second year.

''The beauty of working with iwi is that you don't have to have a signed contact to be able to do business together - as long as there's trust, which there has been.'' 

Sealord would be able to return ''significantly more'' than an annual lease would pay. It would have a security of supply that would help it plan the future of its fishing fleet.

''We can make some decisions around boats. They're expensive bits of merchandise and if we want to look at investing in more assets to fish with, we need some certainty.''

Paku, who when asked about the return to the iwi said, ''It's never enough'', was joined at the signing by the holding company's chairman, Rangi Manuel.

The Nelson Mail