Former multi-level fish company Hawke's Bay Seafoods has been ordered to pay almost $70,000 in a fine, wages reimbursement and costs for underpaying overseas crew on two of its fishing vessels.

According to an Employment Relations Authority decision delivered on Monday, following investigation meetings in mid-2019, six Indonesian workers were hit by failures of the company relating to minimum holiday and leave entitlements dating back to 2013.

The company, which last year sold the business to iwi-owned Kahungunu Asset Holding Co, now operating the Ahuriri-based processing and shopfront as Takitimu Seafoods, was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay arrears of $25,002.34.

The MBIE's Labour Inspectorate issued an Improvement Notice in 2015, but the breaches stemmed from an audit investigation started in 2017.


Affected crew were on the 31 metre long-liner Pacific Explorer, fishing mainly in the area of the Chatham Islands, and the trawler Mutiara.

The Inspector said HB Seafoods, which operated as a catch, processing, retailing and export operation with more than 200 staff, failed to keep records for the six crew as required by Holidays and Employment Relations acts.

The company, represented in the proceedings by Napier accountant Rod De Terte, denied the breaches.

But the authority's Michelle Ryan determined the company's records were deficient, with multiple inaccuracies and omissions.

The company had been unable to explain the deficiencies, she said, adding its position was untenable.

She found nine separate and ongoing omissions or failures, involving 41 breaches, and believed that the company's approach to the provision of records seriously hampered the inspector's ability to investigate the situation of what were regarded as "vulnerable migrant workers."

She said the harm caused as a result of the recording failures meant crew were deprived of financial entitlements and the sum of money owed to individual crew would likely be significant to each of them.