The iwi taking over seafood giant Hawke's Bay Seafoods (HBS) has offered condolences to its outgoing owners over two family tragedies in the past 10 months.

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngāhiwi Tomoana said the D'Esposito whānau had experienced personal tragedies while at the same time being under "immense pressure" as a result of a long-running prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

There had been two sudden deaths in the family, including one at the weekend.

"Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated consoles with the D'Esposito whānau who have lost two sons ... in the last 10 months and have been under immense pressure as a result of the prosecutions. We share our condolences with the whānau," Tomoana said.

Advertisement

HBS director Nino D'Esposito was unavailable for comment due to the bereavement, after a court judgment on Monday that ordered $1.5 million in fines and costs ordered against the company, associated companies, directors and a skipper.

The judgment came after a 2016 raid which led to one of the country's longest trials.

HBS is now to be taken-over by shareholder and iwi organisation Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.

The move, including the establishment of a new entity tentatively called Takitimu Seafoods, was confirmed in the statement from Tomoana.

He said that taking such a major stake in the industry had been part of iwi strategy for more than 20 years and it formally started negotiations with HBS several months before the raid.

Police check a Hawke's Bay Seafoods van in Ahuriri, Napier, during a 2016 raid that led to a prosecution. Photo / File
Police check a Hawke's Bay Seafoods van in Ahuriri, Napier, during a 2016 raid that led to a prosecution. Photo / File

The company has had an agreement with the iwi to purchase iwi annual fish quota and provide employment for iwi members.

Negotiations started in early 2014 with a view to the iwi taking a controlling interest.

At that time the company was also planning a $3m development of its highway site at the corner of Pandora Rd and West Quay, and now provides work for more than 250 people, many members of the iwi, which was also looking for the investment which led to the joint-venture purchase of the trawler Glomfjord from Denmark in 2016.

Advertisement

Tomoana said the negotiations were suspended because of the multi-agency government raid in September 2014, but it didn't put the iwi off.

"We've maintained our interest in purchasing up to 100 per cent of the company to become a major stakeholder and participant in the industry," he said.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods director Nino D'Esposito pleaded guilty last year to a total of 131 charges under the Fisheries Act. Photo / File
Hawke's Bay Seafoods director Nino D'Esposito pleaded guilty last year to a total of 131 charges under the Fisheries Act. Photo / File

"It has been an iwi strategy for over 20 years and we are positive and confident about the opportunity for Ngāti Kahungunu and our fisheries into the future."

He said that if the vision of the iwi, the country's third-largest with 31,689 registered members, is realised, it "will be the only iwi to my knowledge, that will own our catching, processing and marketing of settlement assets in the country".

"Ngāti Kahungunu will seek to ensure that environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits are paramount," he said.

"Ngāti Kahungunu iwi is relieved we can now bring to closure our purchase opportunity of Hawke's Bay Seafoods."

A spokesman for HBS confirmed it had been in talks with Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated to take a controlling interest in the company and those discussions could now move ahead in earnest.

Commenting on the court case, the spokesman said: "The company is pleased that this case has been brought to a close."

"It's regrettable that we did not have the resources to continue with our defence," he said.

"However, we can now put the last four years behind us and move forward."