A shipping container has been modified into a fish filleting station and distribution hub for a Mangere marae to increase its supply of fish heads and frames to feed families in need.
The bespoke 20-foot container is located at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae and was created by Royal Wolf for the Kai Ika Project, which distributes fish off cuts, which would otherwise go waste, to the local community.
The Kai Ika Project was started in 2016 by LegaSea to raise awareness of issues affecting the marine environment and to help feed communities in need.
With plans to roll out the initiative nationwide, Sam Woolford, project lead Kai Ika, said, “The container is a practical solution and it’s also elevated the whole project.”
The marae was able to quadruple its supply, from 250kg a week to more than 1000kg to help meet the growing demand from families in need.
Woolford says the benefit of the container and the increased capacity was highlighted during the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown when queues for collecting fish were 400 metres long.
“Kai Ika is all about kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, but it’s also about manaakitanga – support and caring for others. It shows how a simple adjustment in thinking and behaviour is having a positive impact in the community and helping many families as well as the environment.
“The container is the centre point for this. It’s a gathering place where people come together to fillet and collect the fish heads, frames, and offal.”
Lionel Hotene from Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae says the food the marae produces, which also includes kumara and other vegetables, helps address some of the food insecurities that many people in the community face and encourages a move away from fast food.
“The container takes us to another level in regards to offering a better service to our people. It’s very professional; it’s something you probably wouldn’t [normally] see in South Auckland. This is real top-class A grade stuff.”
The model being used at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae is the first step in taking it to a national level where it can help feed families around the country. The Ministry for the Environment is supporting the nationwide development of the project.
The 20-foot open side container has easy access from both the front and sides to allow easy movement and loading of bins of fish parts. It is lined internally to create a cooler internal temperature during summer and the specialist electrical fit-out enables the inside of the unit to be washed out daily.
Graham Allison, Royal Wolf regional manager – northern, says the company is a big supporter of community initiatives and partnering with a project like Kai Ika takes that to the next level.
“We modify containers into many different things and the Kai Ika project is yet another inventive use of a container. But more importantly, the container is the hub of a project that is helping feed local communities including many families and people who are in need. That’s something very special.”
Woolford says on average, only one-third of a fish is eaten, with most people only eating the fillets.
“Fish heads and the frames may be viewed as waste by many people but in te reo, the head of the fish is called rangatira kai or ‘chiefly food’ and is considered a delicacy. It really is the tastiest part of the fish and the people we supply this delicious seafood to value the whole fish.”
He says Kai Ika has a mandate to ensure New Zealand’s fish resources are being used effectively and sustainably, which means everything from reducing wastage to supporting communities in need.
“Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae in Mangere not only distribute the heads and frames to families, but the offal is used as fertiliser in the marae gardens where kumara is also grown for distribution to the community.”