Te Ohu Kaimoana to be restructured as iwi takes control of AFL shares

The 2015 independent review of the Maori Fisheries Settlement by Tim Castle recommended TOKM, which oversees Aotearoa Fisheries, be wound down with power returned to iwi groups for management.

Iwi have voted to keep Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Maori Fisheries Commission, while taking full control of Aotearoa Fisheries voting and income shares in a move which will see oversight of its $543 million in fishery assets restructured.

The 2015 independent review of the Maori Fisheries Settlement by Wellington barrister Tim Castle recommended TOKM, which oversees Aotearoa Fisheries, be wound down with power returned to iwi groups for management. In response to Mr Castle's recommendations, TOKM appointed an iwi working group, chaired by the Maori Trustee, Jamie Tuuta, which in consultation with iwi produced 15 resolutions to vote on at a special meeting in Wellington today.

Iwi have rejected dismantling the fisheries governing body while unanimously voting in favour of transferring all Aotearoa Fisheries voting and income shares to iwi control. Under the Maori Fisheries Act in 2004, TOKM was set up to manage the fishing quota awarded to Maori in the 1992 fisheries settlement.

By consensus, iwi closed the voting to media, saying iwi needed to speak freely. TOKM director Sonny Tau said poor reporting had focused on the worst of Maori issues and ignored more positive stories. Media were allowed to attend the opening of the hui, which discussed the working group's 15 resolutions in response to the review.

The working group opposed winding down TOKM because it wanted to retain a pan-iwi entity to represent and organise the interest of the fisheries settlement but did agree it needed a more direct relationship with iwi. It supported Mr Castle's view that its income and control shares in Aotearoa Fisheries be taken over by iwi and that its directors be appointed based on merit.

It also proposed abandoning Te Kawai Tumata, the Maori Fisheries Electoral College, which is appointed by iwi with one member appointed by the representative Maori group.

John Tamihere, chief executive of Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust, told the meeting, on behalf of Willie Jackson, chairman of the National Urban Maori Authority, iwi must remember the "tyranny of the majority" and that urban Maori, who weren't necessarily represented by an iwi, had felt excluded from the process.

"Te Kawai Tumata has never worked for the urban Maori peoples because we were unable to get any views expressed or across in regard to getting appointments," Tamihere told the meeting. "It might be a good thing if Te Kawai Tumata is disestablished, solely on the basis of the prejudice that was felt by those that consider themselves excluded."

The Urban Maori Authority didn't have a say in the iwi working group, Tamihere said, and was pushing for greater representation in the governance of the assets.

"In terms of process, you cannot pretend that urban Maori communities don't exist and they should be allowed a voice," Mr Tamihere said. "For those of you that are here that represent your iwi, good on you and you're well connected and you know exactly where you're going, and what you are and what you're doing. It's not the case for thousands of Maori people on the streets of our urban areas."

During the formation of TOKM, Te Putea Whakatupu Trust was established to provide for Maori who might not benefit from the settlement. The urban Maori authority wanted the $20 million in the trust to be used to support social and economic developments.

The Castle review also recommended that the influence on the board be more heavily weighted to representative Maori organisations, like the NUMA, a move the working group opposed arguing the trend was for Maori increasingly to connect with their iwi.

"Every time we sit on a board we're outvoted two-to-one on people who are not representative of our communities in the cities, and know nothing about them, but sit there as puppets on behalf of others," Tamihere told the meeting before the voting began. Tamihere said he would seek an amendment to a resolution which would see greater governance powers given to Maori representative groups, which BusinessDesk understands did not get passed.

Before the meeting was closed to media, Sir Tipene O'Regan, a former Ngai Tahu leader, said the settlement delivered assets to iwi under their Treaty of Waitangi rights and it was their duty to protect them, not to treat them like a "bunch of commercial assets just like anyone else."

"I don't care what you do with the money, you can spray it off to John [Tamihere] and his mates to go and play with," Sir Tipene said. "Our task is to use our Treaty rights to end up buying Sanfords, not imitating them and, when we do, always remember where it comes from. It comes from the Treaty rights of iwi, signed for by our tupuna [ancestors] which we have progressively recovered.

"Trying to transmute them into some social welfare distribution model may be all right basically for calming the chooks but it doesn't look after the farm," Tipene said. "We're talking about the quota and the asset holding entities that hold it – that's the farm and that's our duty to protect."

It's understood all 15 of the working group's resolutions passed at the meeting, with a few minor changes.