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Te Ohu Kaimoana wants urgency for legislation to allow Māori fisheries restructure

Wednesday 5th July 2017

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Te Ohu Kaimoana wants policymakers to put legislative reform enabling an overhaul of the Māori fisheries governing body near the top of their list after the September general election. 

The Māori fisheries commission has been holding hui across the country since 2015 when its 58 iwi members voted to keep the entity as an advocacy group but take more direct control of Te Ohu Kaimoana's half billion dollars of aquaculture assets. The body was set up in 2004 under the Māori Fisheries Act to manage the fishing quota awarded to Māori in the landmark 1992 fisheries settlement. 

Representatives appeared before Parliament's Māori affairs select committee in Wellington today to give legislators an update on the review, having delivered a report to Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy last September. 

Chairman Jamie Tuuta told politicians the speed at which they can push through the reforms will rely on the next government and where its priorities lie after the general election later this year. 

"Our preference and our desire and what we'd like to encourage all of you depending on the outcome following the 23rd of September is that there is some urgency around progressing this particular matter," he said. 

Chief executive Dion Tuuta said Ministry for Primary Industries officials indicated that the earliest it could be put in place would be the end of 2018. 

The 2015 vote was triggered by an independent review by Wellington barrister Tim Castle, who recommended Te Ohu Kaimoana be wound down with the power returned to iwi. While that resolution was ultimately rejected, iwi supported Castle's view that its income and control shares in commercial fishing operation Aotearoa Fisheries, now Moana New Zealand, be distributed to iwi and that its directors be appointed on merit. 

Among the resolutions Dion Tuuta said were "overwhelmingly supported" was an amendment to Aotearoa Fisheries' dividend policy giving directors flexibility to pay a smaller return than the mandated 40 percent of net profit if the conditions warrant. 

Iwi also supported a proposal for Te Ohu Kaimoana to keep some funds with the rest distributed equally among iwi, but not the schedule 5 entities such as the National Urban Māori Authority. 

The divide between iwi and urban Māori spilled over into the courts last year when National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA) and Te Waipareira Trust won a High Court claim for representation on Te Putea Whakatupu Trust, set up to provide training and research opportunities in the fisheries sector. 

In January, Te Ohu Kaimoana named Willie Jackson, Norm Dewes and Willie Te Aho to the Te Putea Whakatupu board, although Jamie Tuuta today said Te Aho's resignation was accepted yesterday. Te Ohu Kaimoana director Rangimarie Hunia is filling Te Aho's role on an interim basis. 

(BusinessDesk)

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