A vessel designed to create job opportunities for young Māori in the Far North, is set to be blessed in Tauranga before setting off on its first fishing venture.
The Hikurangi is the latest in the fishing fleet of the Rawlinson whānau business RMD Marine.
For the past four years, the vessel has been refitted in the South Island to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Before it sets sail on its first fishing venture, the Hikurangi will be blessed by Tamati Tata, a local kaumatua from Tauranga.
This blessing signifies the start of a new journey for the Hikurangi, the Rawlinson whānau business, RMD Marine, and the regional communities in Aotearoa.
The Hikurangi represents more than just an expansion of the RMD Marine fleet, says RMD Marine co-owner Roger Rawlinson.
This boat was specifically chosen and refurbished to be a training vessel to create employment opportunities for young people in the far North.
With three cabins and nine bunks, the Hikurangi can take up to two extra people on every excursion, giving young people in the regions an opportunity to experience a career in the fishing industry.
Roger has been fishing in the far North for 25 years, and it’s where a lot of their harvesting is undertaken.
Over the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, Roger, along with Bay Packers (part-owned by Moana New Zealand) and Ngāti Ranginui Fisheries, were kept busy doing customary fishing for local communities and hapu.
“The need was there, people couldn't go out and collect for themselves, so we helped out where we could during that difficult time.
“I even bought a chiller truck so that they could safely cart the fish in a temperature-controlled environment.”
Over his many years working in the Far North, Roger has seen the need for better employment opportunities for young people.
Poor job availability in the regions often presents young people there with a choice of moving to cities or staying and facing unfulfilling careers.
And for some, it means no jobs at all.
RMD Marine is working alongside local hapū to get young people aboard the Hikurangi, to let them have a chance at fishing and see if it’s for them.
“I've got the capability and the capacity to do it, and I wanna do it,” says Roger, “if they don't like it, that's fine; if they do like it, there may be a job for them.”
As a nod to their own whakapapa as a Māori fishing whānau, the Rawlinson whānau have added a kowhaiwhai design to the Hikurangi, a combination of mangopare (hammerhead sharks) and ngaru (waves).
This design represents the harmony between their ocean environment, relationships with iwi and hapū and commercial relationships like Moana New Zealand.
For the team at RMD Marine, the addition of the Hikurangi isn’t about catching any more fish, it’s about safety and futureproofing.
Another vessel in the fleet means less wear and tear on the RMD Marine fleet and more time for safety measures like servicing, which keeps the boats 100 per cent and the crew onboard safe.
The Hikurangi has also been kitted out with the latest in marine technology to give the people working and training onboard the best experience and working conditions possible.
It also creates a new opportunity for Roger’s son, Andre, who will be the engineer and skipper onboard the Hikurangi.
“I've got the capability now to make dreams come true for some people who might want to be in the marine industry because there's not just fishing, there are engineering and electrical and all sorts of stuff that make ships move through the water,” says Roger.
Moana New Zealand GM Inshore, Mark Ngata, says as Moana New Zealand doesn’t own any of its own vessels, “it’s imperative to us that we partner with businesses that align with our values of kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, whakapapa and whakatipuranga”.
“RMD Marine is an outstanding example of this. They are a business that we can stand proudly and humbly beside as they continue to excel at navigating the ever-changing waters of the fishing industry.
“RMD Marine has come a long way since they started from scratch in 1988, and we know they have a long, prosperous future ahead of them. We are proud of what they have achieved, how they have gone about achieving it and importantly, we’re proud to have them as part of our Moana whānau,” says Ngata.