It's been almost a month since Ngāti Kahungunu's fisheries business, Takitimu Seafoods, downsized to one fish 'n' chip takeaway shop, combined with its fresh fish and third-party retail outlet, and a strong wholesale and online wing for valued customers to maintain purchasing high-quality fish delivered straight to their door.
On May 30, around 25 staff and 10 iwi representatives met at Takitimu Seafoods in Napier to join in a refreshing ceremony to welcome everyone in the team to a new start for the company.
The morning commenced with Kaumātua Haami Hilton and Samoan elder Asovale Tuimaseve opening the day with a karakia shared in both the Māori and Samoan language to ensure that all staff could feel the goodwill and noble feelings among those present.
Iwi leader JB Heperi-Smith congratulated and commended staff for their commitment and dedication to Takitimu Seafoods and shared his thoughts about the way we treat our customers so they feel the vibrancy, the wairua and manaakitanga when they come to Takitimu Seafoods.
"You are the magic touch point. Our objective is that we want to be the best seafood retailer in the country. Part of that is believing that, seeing that and achieving that," Heperi-Smith said.
There was a noticeable absence of former fellow staff and friends who were let go as part of the restructure. However, staff were encouraged that this change is positive for the business, and at some future stage it could grow.
"The aim is to get a footprint back in Heretaunga," Heperi-Smith said.
The visit was the first time to the Takitimu Seafoods building in Napier for the newly elected iwi chairman Bayden Barber, who reminded those present that Takitimu was one of the ancestral waka, which Hawaiki-nui, Hawaiki-roa, and Hawaiki-pamamoa sailed in to the land of Aotearoa.
"This Waka was very sacred as it carried Ariki or Tohunga, who were 'experts' in their fields," Barber said.
He encouraged kaimahi/workers to become experts in whatever they do, and urged management that if there were any gaps in these expert areas they needed to be filled.
"We need to become experts in our fields, whether we are management, governance, shop staff, fish filleters or directors. We need to be experts because in the world we live in today, we need to work hard, test ourselves and become the best at what we do to succeed," he said.
The Kahungunu Asset Holding Company (KAHC) Business Manager Rawinia Lewis has led the restructure process under the guidance of the KAHC Directors, Trevor Moeke, Barry Wilson, JB Heperi-Smith, Takitimu Seafoods Board Chairman, Ngahiwi Tomoana and Senior Advisor, Alan Riwaka.
"It has been no easy task, especially having to downsize from 70 to 25 staff," Lewis said.
"Although challenging, I am pleased that most of the staff who lost their jobs have moved on with other working opportunities, either through the Kahungunu Manaaki Centre or through opportunities of their own".
Lewis will be managing Takitimu Seafoods until the business grows.
Barber would like to see staff acknowledged as they grow as experts in their fields. "We need to make sure that our staff are learning and gaining certificates to acknowledge their work."
A traditional karakia to bless the workplace and celebrate this new start was offered by iwi leaders as everyone walked through the factory, offices and shop. The morning ended with light refreshments to seal the morning ceremony and confirm the kōrero that was shared.
Since its purchase in April 2019, Takitimu Seafoods has been the flagship for Ngāti Kahungunu. It's the manifestation of the vision held by Ngāti Kahungunu elders 30 years beforehand – the vehicle that connects iwi members and whānau to their fishery assets and rights settled nearly 20 years ago.
While the first year of operation was not without its struggles, all sales outlets (wholesale, export, retail and online) were relatively successful. The first sign of Covid-19 hitting Takitimu Seafoods was January 2020, when the cancellation of the Chinese New Year ceased all export sales of crayfish and seafood to China. A major export channel for Takitimu Seafoods had all but stopped overnight.
What followed was the collapse of international export markets, followed soon after by the domestic wholesale markets as lockdowns dragged on, and Auckland lockdowns became a regular occurrence. It was a source of great pride for Takitimu Seafoods that it was deemed an essential service, and the pivot to online meant staff could remain employed, and some revenue could be realised during the lockdowns. During that time, Takitimu Seafoods also landed and processed thousands of kilos of fish as pātaka for whānau impacted by the lockdowns.
However, despite the change in focus, Takitimu Seafoods has not been able to recover. Fish stockpiled across the country while beleaguered markets, increased competition and difficult logistics channels failed to deliver what was needed for Takitimu Seafoods to survive in its current form, let alone thrive.
Despite the best efforts Takitimu Seafoods reported a significant loss for the 20/21 year. This year Takitimu Seafoods was forecasting a further loss. Significant measures were needed in order to keep the dream of Takitimu Seafoods alive.
On April 27, 2022, Takitimu Seafoods leaders met with staff to present a restructure proposal to downsize the business and avoid further financial loss. This was followed by a comprehensive communication rollout to inform stakeholders, consumers and the wider public.
Staff were encouraged to provide feedback to the proposal by May 4. This information was collated and considered and an updated proposal was presented back to staff and approved for execution.
The restructure was approved and on May 30, the staff and iwi leaders met to welcome in the new changes.
Ngāti Kahungunu is the third largest iwi, with 38,000 registered members. Geographically the tribe has the second-longest coastline in the country, from Paritū in the North to Turakirae in the South. Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated maintains an independent position to provide research, advice and advocate for the interests, rights, values, beliefs and practices of Ngāti Kahungunu alongside our whānau and hapū. Our mission is to enhance the mana and well-being of Ngāti Kahungunu.