Ngati Kahungunu iwi leader Ngahiwi Tomoana is hoping fishing enterprise Takitimu Seafoods could be back in operation in "hours" after a closure forced by a sudden revocation of its licences.
Putting the jobs of 145 shore staff on hold, the operation's gaffe has been put down to a licence renewal timing oversight, for which Takitimu Seafoods has put its "hands up", although Tomoana was surprised by the near-immediacy of the action by the Ministry for Primary Industries after he became aware of the problems on Tuesday night.
He said about $40,000 of fish was about to be loaded at Hawke's Bay Airport for export to Australia on Wednesday night when the licences were revoked.
"We weren't allowed to load it," he told Hawke's Bay Today on Thursday, after the iwi issued a media statement announcing its retail shops, on the corner of Pandora Rd and West Quay, Napier, and in Heretaunga St West, Hastings, were temporarily closed.
"This is due to an administration oversight and the shops will remain closed until the necessary paperwork has been completed and we are compliant with our own processes," the statement said.
"This happened during a time of transition when we were recruiting key roles (including the chief executive) that would be responsible for this compliance process," it continued.
"This was entirely preventable and we apologise to our whānau and customers for this administrative shortfall."
"In the meantime our staff of 145 whānau are on standby until we, as the governors, can provide assurance to the Ministry of Primary Industries and others that all the right mechanisms and personnel are in place."
It affected the shops, and the processing and exporting staff at the Napier plant, formerly Hawke's Bay Seafoods, from which the operation was bought by former part-owner the iwi two years ago.
About 80 people contracted to catch fish remained at work at sea, Tomoana said.
While Takitimu is operated by a governance group within iwi-owned Kahungunu Asset Holding Co, and Tomoana had only just become aware of the oversight, he said it was ultimately he who had to shoulder the responsibility.
"We've got to put our hands up and had to say: 'Shucks! Let's fix it and make sure it never happens again'," he said, hopeful it would take only "hours" rather than days to have the licences renewed.
Given the court battles that had been faced historically by Hawke's Bay Seafoods, the iwi moved quickly to stop any rumours that might circulate with the closure of the shop doors today.
The prepared statement said: "The closure has nothing to do with fraudulent activity or concerns regarding the quality of our product. We assure you we will be open as soon as possible."
New Zealand Food Safety (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) confirmed it is working with Takitimu to ensure correct registrations are in place.
NZFS director performance oversight and approvals Debbie Morris said the operations are subject to the Animal Products Act 1999 and the Food Act 2014, both requiring food businesses to register and operate within a risk-based plan or programme.
Takitimu Seafoods holds registrations for import, sale, distribution and exporting and several are, or have been, under restriction while the business works with NZFS to confirm it meets the requirements and conditions outlined in its plans.
Food businesses are registered either with NZFS or local councils, and renewal notices are sent to a business before a registration expires, requiring renewal to be completed before expiry.
Food exporter and importer registration must be renewed annually. And for registration types where an expiry date applies, registration could cancel if not renewed on time.