Ngai Tahu's $27.8 million annual profit has crashed to a $4.7 million net after-tax loss, mainly because of the earthquake's devastating effects on the iwi's extensive property holdings.

The annual report for the June 2011 year, out this month, showed how property cost the iwi $28.1 million in an unfortunate combination of valuation writedowns and earthquake damage.

But Greg Campbell, Ngai Tahu chief executive, said insurance claims had been lodged on properties and these would be taken into this current year's balance sheet.

The net loss from fair value adjustments on investment properties was $18,818,000 compared to last year's $1,815,000 loss but a separate specific provision in the accounts showed a further $9,315,000 quake writedown.

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Ngai Tahu's $4.7 million net after-tax annual loss compares unfavourably to Tainui's $23.1 million net profit for 2011. Both iwi have an annual account balance date of June 30.

Ngai Tahu's results were issued on October 1.

Ngai Tahu has remained New Zealand's richest iwi. It declared $730 million total assets, of which $304 million is invested in real estate. The iwi's asset base rose from last year's $715 million.

Tainui's total assets declared in its latest accounts are $658 million.

Tainui got a Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 1995 of $170 million, and a separate river settlement two years ago, while Ngai Tahu got its settlement of $170 million in 1997.

Both iwi have now collectively transformed their $340 million into $1.3 billion, according to the latest accounts.

Ngai Tahu's properties include Tower Junction shopping centre at the city end of Christchurch's Blenheim Rd, a civic joint venture project, the Harvey Cameron building on Oxford Tce, police stations in Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin and courts in Christchurch and Queenstown.

The iwi also has residential developments at Wigram Skies, Linden Grove and Lincoln.

Ngai Tahu Property is expecting "significant opportunities in the coming years" after thousands of Christchurch houses were destroyed by the earthquake.

Campbell said net operating surplus was a far more important figure than the bottom line $4.7 million loss because operating surplus revealed the total amount of cash the many businesses earned.

"In the past, we've had properties go up and if we continued to point to that, it's not under our control. It's the whole market and you can't pay dividends or interest out of non-cash earnings. These assets are not realised till you sell them," he said of real estate.

Claims had been lodged for property damage and these payments would be recorded in this current year's financial statements, he said.

Ngai Tahu was richer than Tainui, he acknowledged, although he said the two iwi were different in their investment philosophies and strategies.

"Tainui's numbers are primarily focused on property and they are more reliant on valuation increases and decreases but we want to know how much cash we get from our customers. We have a slightly different strategy: we have 63 per cent in property but Tainui is pretty much 100 per cent.

"How much cash we produce versus them - we produce significant amounts of cash although it's not about who's biggest," Campbell said.