Two Far North iwi have travelled to Te Waipounamu (South Island) to help establish employment pathways for rangatahi (youth) in the fisheries sector.
An iwi delegation comprising Whangaroa and Te Aupōuri members was busy touring Nelson and Motueka last week, exploring opportunities for mahi (work) in both deep-sea fishing and shore-based factory processing.
Sealord and Talley's hosted the group, who were shown around each of the company's different facilities, including Talley's Motueka accommodation for shore-based northern workers and a deep-sea fishing school at Westport.
Te Aupōuri commercial manager Penetaui Kleskovic said feedback from the sector was there was dire a shortage of workers for New Zealand's deep-sea fishing fleets.
He said given the significant Māori commercial fishery interests, it made sense to steer rangatahi in that direction.
"We are also anxious to cement better links with the fisheries employers in the South Island as it provides a new perspective for our Muriwhenua whānau," Kleskovic said.
"Although the work is demanding, the crew can earn up to $65,000 per year.
"There are a variety of ways we can support rangatahi in securing these types of jobs and while we do want to provide practical assistance, obviously self-motivation is also critical."
Talley's was established in 1936 in Motueka and has expanded to a range of sites across the South Island, producing a variety of products including seafood, mussels, vegetables and icecream.
Tony Hazlett, Talley's CEO, said the company was very happy to work with the Far North iwi.
"We have good connections through our mussel work in the north and have had many local workers working on our boats for years," Hazlett said.
"We are very happy to strengthen ties with iwi and to provide career progression opportunities for people working with us."
Kleskovic said a highlight for the group was visiting Talley's mussel factory in Motueka, where they met Far North wāhine (woman) Santana Morning.
Morning (Te Rarawa) from Herekino made the long journey to Motueka by car with her māmā (mum) on Waitangi weekend, after accepting a job with Talley's earlier this year.
The almost 23-year-old works in quality control at Talley's mussel factory and is responsible for ensuring all mussel products heading out to supermarkets around Aotearoa (and the world) are of the highest standard.
Prior to her mahi (work) with Talley's, Morning worked at Kaitaia's Te Hiku Hauora as a medical receptionist and Stop Smoking Co-ordinator.
She said before moving to Motueka, she had only ever travelled to the South Island once to visit a friend.
Morning said the promise of secure accommodation and employment was a major drawcard in heading south and an opportunity too good to turn down.
"I've been down here four months now and it's been really awesome so far," she said.
"It's a completely fresh start and so different to anything I've done before, but I'm really enjoying it.
"My friends and whānau have all said they're really proud of me and encouraged me to keep going."
As the only-known Far North employee currently working at the mussel factory, Morning said she was lost for words to see the Muriwhenua group last week.
"My manager literally pulled me off the working line in the factory and all of a sudden, wow, there was Shane Jones," Morning said.
"It was really nice seeing people from home and one of them I recognised as a former lifeguard from the Kaitaia Pools, so that was neat."
Sealord is one of the largest seafood companies in the Southern Hemisphere, with fishing operations in New Zealand, Australia and Mauritius.
The fishing company is 50 per cent Māori-owned and employs more than 1000 people in New Zealand and 240 overseas.
In 2019 a collaborative agreement, "Nga Tapuwae o Maui-Following in the footsteps of Māui" was signed between Sealord and 41 iwi groups.
This meant 60 per cent of the iwi quota held in deep-water fisheries (including hoki, orange roughy, jack mackerel and silver warehou) would be caught on Sealord vessels, and more than 80 per cent of profits returned to iwi.
The agreement also provides iwi members opportunities for training and employment, as well as advancement of iwi knowledge of and involvement in aspects of the fisheries value chain.
Sealord global sales manager Kleat Nepe (Rongowhakaata) said the initiative had been positive so far and the Far North iwi visit was an important step towards realising further employment opportunities in the fishing sector.
"When people typically think of fishing, they think of work on boats or in factories, but Sealord has a very broad range of opportunities within different departments like marketing, sales, human resources and IT," Nepe said.
"We have lots of opportunities open right now and whatever roles people decide to do will help build up their toolbox to take them further within the company or career opportunities elsewhere."
Nepe said a barrier for some iwi getting their people to work in these roles was location and commitments to whānau, hapū, marae and whenua.
Sealord is therefore looking at the concept of Fly-In, Fly-Out (FIFO) work, which is typically seen with mineworkers travelling to Western Australia for work.
Nepe said the same structure would apply with Sealord, only on a fishing boat and usually on a four- to six-week on/off basis.
"Now that a few years have gone by, our iwi partners are more educated about the challenges of fishing and are looking at what's the next step in the process in terms of career pathways for their people," Nepe said.
"We can do the fishing side, so it's now up to iwi members to corral their people and let them know about the various opportunities for mahi."