Waiariki iwi leaders have explored and discussed potential business opportunities in the region and plan to put forward a case for some by mid-next year.
Leaders from across the rohe gathered in Rotorua yesterdayto mark the culmination of six months of research into business opportunities in the region.
The Te Moana-a-Toi Aquaculture Report presented is part of a wider Bay of Plenty iwi aquaculture project.
They will now prepare a road map and business cases to expand aquaculture operations in the Bay of Plenty.
Under historical Treaty of Waitangi settlements, the Crown is obliged to help Waiariki iwi access up to 10,000ha of aquaculture space.
The report identified the development of hatcheries, aquaculture technology, workforce training, co-operative models and branding embracing Māori identity as the global demand for protein increases.
One of the key presenters was Dickie Farrar, chief executive of the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board, which is looking to build the biggest offshore mussel farm in the world, a vision which began in the 1990s.
The mussel company is worth $58 million and has investment from Māori and Pākehā, trusts, companies and the Crown.
A new harbour, precinct, mussel factory and offshore aquaculture farming areas are being built in and around Ōpōtiki, and Whakatōhea is focusing on education, and trade training to ensure locals are employed.
"We are doing this for Whakatōhea but I see this as for the whole eastern Bay and it is important we are open to bringing in other iwi," Farrar said.
Farrar said the Crown was much more supportive of the aquaculture industry than it had been.
"When we went through it, it was all against us, now it is not. The situation around regulations and legislation is going to be a lot easier for you than it was for us."
Wakatū Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan, who has been heavily involved in developing aquaculture in the upper South Island, said he saw Bay of Plenty towns getting the same economic benefits that the likes of Havelock had in Marlborough - a "town that's thriving".
Morgan acknowledged the risks with climate, temperature, nutrients in the water and fluctuations in productivity, however, he described aquaculture workers as "active kaitiaki on the water".
Bay of Plenty iwi aquaculture project leader and Te Arawa Fisheries chief executive Chris Karamea Insley said Māori needed to move away from being at the first stage of the supply of primary production.
"Whether it's farming, fishing or forestry, we as Māori tend to get stuck at that level."
He noted the success of primary products with added value, such as smoked, ready-to-eat, seasoned salmon fillets produced in Marlborough.
The Ministry for Primary Industries is helping fund the Bay of Plenty iwi aquaculture project which the report was part of, and the team involved expect to have business cases completed by the middle of next year, to seek investment.
Te Moana-a-Toi Aquaculture Report
The report says fisheries hatcheries are fundamental internationally but a lack of hatcheries will constrain growth and investment in the New Zealand industry going forward - so Bay of Plenty iwi can help meet this need.
It says geothermal power resources in the Waiariki rohe could be used for processing high-value fisheries products.
It lists shellfish such as mussels, oysters, scallops and geoducks and finfish such as kingfish, trevally and snapper, as species to trial and research for potentially scaling up.
The report says co-operative models could "transform" business potential for iwi and "address key constraints of access to finance and spat [larvae] supply".
It includes input from the Universities of Waikato and Auckland, Crown Research Institute Plant & Food Research, the Cawthron Institute and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.