5 Jun 2015

Te Ohu Kaimoana cautious over legal threat

7:36 pm on 5 June 2015

Te Ohu Kaimoana will take a "wait and see" approach before retaliating to threats of legal action over the control of a $20 million fishing fund.

Te Ohu Kaimoana CEO Peter Douglas (left) and Chairman Matiu Rei.

Te Ohu Kaimoana CEO Peter Douglas (left) Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

At a hui in Wellington yesterday the majority of 57 mandated iwi voted to keep the Māori Fisheries body, despite an independent review advising it should be scrapped.

Te Ohu Kaimoana chief executive Peter Douglas said he welcomed the decision.

"The occasion was the first of its kind, where all the mandated iwi organisations gathered to exercise a vote," he said.

"So we were apprehensive about how well it would go, whether we were prepared, and whether or not people were going to remember the work that we've done with them. But I am pleased with the result."

In that meeting, iwi also voted in favour of a recommendation made by a sub-committee of Te Ohu Kaimoana - that iwi should take control of Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust.

The trust holds $20 million in assets for urban Māori, set aside through the 2004 Māori Fisheries Act.

However, National Urban Maori Authority (NUMA) chair Willie Jackson described the move as "iwi fundamentalism at its worst" and threatened to take the matter to court.

Mr Douglas said the body would wait before deciding how to deal with the threat.

"I can understand the emotion of the moment. I haven't been called an iwi fundamentalist before, but I think it's probably smarter to wait and understand things a little bit better, from my perspective, before I comment or exchange insults.

"I think we're all interested in similar results; we've just got to work our way through to see how we get there."

Mr Douglas acknowledged that Mr Jackson and NUMA did important work.

In the hui, it was also decided that Te Ohu Kaimoana would have to hand over their shares in Aotearoa Fisheries to iwi.

Mr Douglas said he had seen that move coming for some time.

"This means that we will no longer be the group that's solely responsible for determining who the directors for Aotearoa Fisheries would be. It also means that the income generated from those shares will be distributed among the 57 tribes."

Mr Douglas said in some years that income was as high as $1.8 million.