The agreement between Maori and the Crown on commercial fisheries that was signed on 23 September 1992 was one of the first Treaty of Waitangi settlements completed. It was also one of the largest, consisting of approximately $350 million of commercial fisheries assets consisting of quota, shares in Sealord Group Limited and cash. Together with the 1989 Interim Settlement, Maori Fisheries were valued at more than $700 million.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. It has been more than 20 years since the signing of the Sealord Deal and almost all of the settlement assets have been distributed to iwi.
There have also been huge changes over the years. The original Maori Fisheries Commission became the 1992 Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission or Te Ohu Kai Moana. That was restructured into the current organisation, Te Ohu Kaimoana, in 2004, which provides fisheries management and other advice to iwi organisations and AHCs to support their ownership of the fisheries assets.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Sealord Deal, Te Ohu in association with the Minister for Primary Industries, Hon David Carter, held a small function at Parliament on 23 October 2012. This was attended by the former Prime Minister Rt Hon Jim Bolger ONZ, former Minister of Fisheries and Maori Affairs, Hon Sir Doug Kidd, Maori negotiators, iwi representatives, and other important guests, including Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, Supreme Court Judge Sir John McGrath, Maori MPs, Sealord and AFL management and Te Ohu Kaimoana. Unfortunately, the two leading Maori negotiators for the Sealord Deal, Sir Graham Latimer and Sir Tipene O’Regan were unable to attend the function, although Sir Graham was represented by Maori Council Chairman Maanu Paul.
Te Ohu Kaimoana Chairman Matiu Rei said the Sealord Deal was an important agreement and event in modern Maori-Crown relations and the function was an opportunity to remember that and the characters who played critical roles at the time.
“Some of the people were able to attend the function, but not all. However, everyone involved in the Sealord Deal deserves acknowledgement and praise for their contributions in this legacy for us and future generations,” he said, remembering Hon Matiu Rata and Sir Robert Mahuta, among others.
Matiu Rei reflected on the night of the signing, which was marked by the attendance of kaumatua from all around the motu, most of whom were either advised or instructed not to sign. “They did. I’m not sure that those who signed – and they were the overwhelming majority – did so due to their perspicacity and sagacity or because they were perhaps captivated by the occasion and consequential elevated status,” he told the gathering.
“But in hindsight it is obvious, that it was the former rather than the latter, an inspired choice – he pukenga wai. The Maori negotiators unlocked a door that has lead to Maori having a significant and leading role in New Zealand fisheries.”
He added that Maori have been fishing for hundreds of years. “Not accidently or haphazardly and certainly not leaderless, but with knowledge and experience intertwined with belief and also fabulous stories of Gods, semi-Gods, sea monsters and human heroes. No-one should be surprised that in 20 years, Maori presence has grown significantly and we have shown and continue to show leadership and expertise in the fisheries sector.”
Former Prime Minister Rt Hon Jim Bolger ONZ with Hon Shane Jones, Hon Georgina Te Heuheu, Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Executive Peter Douglas, Rt Hon Winston Peters, and Hon Koro Wetere.
Minister for Primary Industries and host of 20th anniversary function Hon David Carter, with
Mr Bolger; former Maori Fisheries Commissioner Mr Phil Pryke and Labour MP, Hon Shane Jones
Mr Bolger, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and Mr Dick Dargaville.
Te Ohu Kaimoana Chairman Matiu Rei and former Sealord board member Mr Keith Sutton
Hon Shane Jones, Mr Maanu Paul and former Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioner Mr Anaru Rangiheuea.
Dame Sian Elias and former Crown Law official Jennifer Lake.
Ministry for Primary Industries Deputy Director General Ben Dalton and Deputy Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court, Caren Fox.
Former State Services Commissioner Don Hunn, Hon Te Ururoa Flavell, former Chief Executive of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission Mr Robin Hapi, Labour MP Hon Parekura Horomia, and Mr Phil Major.
Tuwharetoa Chief Executive Tamarapa Lloyd with Teatarangi Whiu and Te Ohu Kaimoana policy analyst Doug Jones.
Former Chairman of Seafood Industry Council, Dave Sharp with Sealord Chief Executive, Graham Stuart and Te Ohu Kaimoana alternate board member, Sacha McMeeking.
Mr Matiu Rei with Hon Koro Wetere.
Director General of Ministry for Primary Industries Wayne McNee with Ngapuhi Chairman and Te Ohu Kaimoana Deputy Chairman Sonny Tau.
Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Executivve Peter Douglas with Mr David Taipari, Chairman of Hauraki Maori Trust Board.
New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan with Ngai Tahu Seafood Chief Executive Brian Moriarty, Sealord Group General Manager Wild Fish Doug Paulin, and Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Adviser Laws Lawson.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released details of its operational review of the Fisheries Act 1996. The review, which was announced last year by the Minister, Hon Nathan Guy, was aimed at improving the framework under which New Zealand’s fisheries are managed.