New Zealand Law Society - Māori could gain greater control of fishing rights under review

Māori could gain greater control of fishing rights under review

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

A review of Māori commercial fishing rights has found that iwi want direct control over their assets and the winding up of the central entity representing dozens of iwi organisations.

The review says iwi want a closer relationship with their entities, greater freedom and a simplified process for trading settlement assets within the Māori collective.

The Māori Affairs Committee has considered a briefing on the Independent Review of Māori Commercial Fishing Structures under the Māori Fisheries Act 2004.

Key recommendations of its report include:

  • Removing Te Kawai Taumata as the mechanism for appointing the directors of Te Ohu Kaimoana,
  • Winding up Te Ohu Kaimoana as the settlement’s central management entity,
  • Having direct iwi control of asset holding companies which would appoint directors of Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd (AFL),
  • Giving urban Māori authorities and iwi greater control of the appointment of Te Pūtea directors,
  • Allowing direct appointment of the directors of Te Wai by iwi,
  • Simplifying the process for trading AFL shares and settlement quota within the “Māori pool”.

The Māori Fisheries Act 2004 implemented agreements that had been reached between the Crown and Māori in a Deed of Settlement dated 23 September 1992 regarding Māori claims to commercial fisheries. It established a framework for the allocation and management of fisheries settlement assets.  

Under this framework, four new entities were established: Te Ohu Kaimoana, Aotearoa Fisheries, Te Wai Māori Trustee, and Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trustee. Their purpose is to provide for the development of iwi fisheries, fishing, and fisheries-related activities for the benefit of all Māori.

Te Ohu Kaimoana is the central entity representing the interests of the 58 mandated iwi organisations that were party to the settlement. Te Ohu Kaimoana has allocated over $500 million of fisheries settlement assets to iwi. This arrangement has been described as the basis for modern Māori economic development, and for Māori governance structures.  

The reviewer recommended that Te Ohu Kaimoana should fund the establishment of an Iwi Working Group to consider the review’s recommendations.  

The reviewer noted that Te Ohu Kaimoana had been very successful in achieving its purpose as set out in the Act. This success meant it could now be closed with its assets transferred to iwi.

Under the current structure Te Ohu Kaimoana’s board appoints the directors of, and supervises the distinctively different entities. The review recognised this structure as inefficient and not as responsive to the wishes of individual and collective owners as it could be. The report suggested that a new structure of direct control could more effectively facilitate the owners aspirations for commercial success with greater benefit for all Māori.