Submissions open for Māori Fisheries Amendment bill

By Tema Hemi

The Maori Fisheries Amendment Bill has been a work in progress for more than a decade, and now submissions are open for the public to have its say.

The proposed legislation will hand over control of Māori fisheries assets to iwi, by allocating shares in Te Ohu Kaimoana and also the right to manage and trade quota. 

Under the proposed legislation, iwi organisations and their asset-holding companies will control the Māori Fisheries Commission and Aotearoa Fisheries, the largest Māori seafood company in New Zealand.

“This is the evolution of Iwi, particularly around the subsidiary companies ensuring more direct control over moana," Trade and Export Development Minister Rino Tirikatene says. "And also playing a key role to ensure Te Ohu Kaimoana maintains a strong place on behalf of iwi Maori as an advocate for us in commercial fishing.”

The bill seeks to implement recommendations from Te Ohu Kai Moana, following an independent review of the 19-year-old act and subsequent consultation with iwi.

Jones not impressed

The bill aims to give iwi a "greater degree of rangatiratanga over their assets, improve benefits to all Māori, reduce costs, and improve efficiency."

But NZ First member and former Te Ohu Kaimoana chair Shane Jones says there's little in it. 

“I don't see the relevance of this bill and I feel it is better for our people to work and build off the interest through the benefits of those fishery companies. Let the bill do what it does because the benefit for Iwi is that it solidifies their relationship through the agreeance and support for the bill."

Initiated by late Matiu Rata

But Jones says he is saddened that it’s taken this long for the bill to be passed "and therefore all the work under the Sealord deal has been wasted.”

Jones says this bill was initiated by Matiu Rata, and started by Bob Mahuta, and Sir Graham Latimer, and Sir Tipene O'Regan.

"They gave the example so that iwi would receive their share and quota and other benefits."

Tirikatene says the bill is long-awaited.

"The key decisions that were made to move to this next stage of the evolution of our Maori commercial fisheries were established years ago, so I am really pleased that the bill has had its first reading and it's now at select committee.”

Submissions are open until April 13, 2023.