Cray cray demand: the Maori fisheries feeding China

China takes most of New Zealand's total crayfish, or rock lobster, catch and demand for the country's creamy crustaceans has skyrocketed in the past few years. That's great news for the companies behind a partnership to create New Zealand's largest Māori-owned lobster processing business.

Port Nicholson Fisheries Limited Partnership will join with Aotearoa Fisheries' lobster division from April 2016 to process and export around 650 tonnes of lobster – around 44 per cent of the North Island and Chathams' total allocated catch and 23 per cent of New Zealand's total live lobster export.

"By banding together we are able to secure greater investment opportunities in the global marketplace."
Sharon Stephenson, Freelance journalist

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Grant Absalom, general manager of Port Nicholson Fisheries, says the partnership between Port Nicholson Fisheries and Aotearoa Fisheries is a significant step forward for both Māori fisheries and the country as a whole.

The collaboration gives 25 iwi  (Maori kinship groups) five-year rolling contracts with the respective quotas bundled together to provide each iwi a profit share.

“It isn't only about increasing revenue; it's about like-minded people doing business together," says Absalom.

"It means better economies of scale, a common shareholder base, aligned values and a shared vision for the future. It doesn't matter if you're an iwi with a half-tonne or five-tonne quota, you'll be treated the same with full value of the asset."

The new company will also provide iwi with greater marketing clout and give them exposure across the full lobster industry value chain.


Absalom believes the deal demonstrates the power of collaboration among iwi and sees it as the first step in a collaborative model for the Māori fishing industry.

“By banding together we are able to secure greater investment opportunities in the global marketplace," he says.

Dion Tuuta, chief executive of one of the key stakeholders, Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation, agrees: “Māori collaboration works well because despite all of the differences that we have as individual iwi and Māori businesses – and there are differences – we ultimately share the same fundamental values base, characterised by a long term outlook, that helps us view the industry in its proper context."

Tom McClurg, director of Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri Asset Holding Company, says the partnership “strikes the right balance between iwi independence, where it's wanted, and iwi co-operation where it's needed".

“I believe the decision to come together now has been driven by an increasing awareness of the collective power of Māori in the industry and how leveraging this strength can create greater value for Māori," he says.

For Maru Samuels, general manager of the Iwi Collective Partnership, collaboration has allowed their organisation to “participate in an opportunity that would have otherwise taken 20 years to achieve on our own".

“It's consistent with other concepts of whānau, whakapapa and manaakitanga - what can essentially be summed up in the universal concept of 'family'. There is a common perception that it means an untenable loss of control but we believe the opposite."

Earlier this year, Absalom got to see where New Zealand's lobster ended up, as part of an ANZ-sponsored trip to Shanghai and Taipei aimed at giving clients an insight into how to do business in China.

“During the week's trip we met with NZTE Trade Commissioners and ANZ staff who helped pinpoint opportunities for us," he said. “It gave me a much better understanding of how China works and we're still talking to three of the contacts I made over there which will hopefully lead to new markets."

Sharon Stephenson is a freelance journalist

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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