Ngati Kahungunu is giving away fresh "customary" fish to hundreds of families and individuals in need from Wairoa to Wairarapa, as part of a groundbreaking initiative kicked into gear because of the lockdown.
Iwi chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said the idea came about because it had to close down its fish shops because of Covid-19, and tangi are now unable to be held.
"The Covid-19 coronavirus has forced us to rethink many ways of doing things and in this particular case the way the iwi allocate customary fish," Tomoana said.
"Customary fish is normally only for tangi through a commercial koha of 10kg of fillets."
He said the fish was usually of slightly lesser value like kahawai, mullet, slip jack tuna, and mussels, but no less nutritious.
With the support of hapū kaitiaki and with advice and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Ngāti Kahungunu entered a new phase of "Kai Hau Kai" currently known as customary fishing.
"People used to come from far and wide to buy the fresh nutritious fish previously available in our fish shops which are now closed," he said.
"This way we can provide fresh, nutritional fish especially to the kaumātua and the needy under severe pressure from the massive economic downturn and self-isolation.
"The people receiving the fish will not be meeting the people delivering. There will be no contact between them. They will be contacted prior to delivery and the fish will be left outside for collection."
Tomoana said Mike Terry, an iwi partner and a commercial skipper and vessel owner, volunteered his time and effort to catch customary fish "as he saw the kaupapa and value in what our aims were".
Tomoana said Māori leaders were in immediate agreement with the idea and permits along the coastal waters were then issued, along with MPI advice.
He said customary fishing was separate from commercial operations.
On the iwi's Facebook page he talked about how the fish was procured.
"On the evening of March 31, the Atlantic Dawn set off for the Kairakau - to Pourerere area to trawl for fish about 5km offshore and beyond," he said.
"After a days fishing they decided to go further south around Tautane Station (also owned by the iwi) and here they turned and headed home with 140 bins of a mixed variety of fish for Kai Hau Kai offerings.
"It took 10 hours to steam home and they landed in Ahuriri at 7am on April 3."
On unloading every bin was tagged "customary" and every bin was well iced.
"The fish was very fresh and in great condition. The crew had done a superb job," he said.
Back at the Takitimu Seafoods factory the fish was weighed, recorded and ready for filleting, bagging and packing.
The areas were cordoned off and clearly labelled as "customary processing" to avoid any ambiguity with the commercial operations.
"The fillets, heads and frames (normally the heads and frames are discarded for fertiliser) will be packed in 'Kahungunu Customary' boxes and chilled for distribution."
At least 120 volunteers including Taiwhenua staff at each of the six hubs would ensure the most needy would be first priority, he said.
"This process can be repeated once all the checks and balances are in place and evaluated."
The first lot of 300 to 400kg of fish was delivered on Sunday to households around the region.