South Auckland marae makes fish 'waste' into food for the community

If you've been out fishing this summer, chances are you threw out the fish guts and frames when you came back in. But you might want to think twice about doing that from now on. 

A group with a south Auckland marae is using that so-called "waste" to feed families.

The project has been so successful it's looking to go nationwide.

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, but teach a man to gut and separate the waste and you feed a whole community forever. It's an update to the old proverb, and Lionel Hotene of the Papatuanuku Kokiri marae is teaching fishermen on a daily basis. 

"Nothing goes to waste - total utilisation," he says. "There's a lot of desperate people out there."

Those desperate families are being helped by members of Auckland's Outboard Boating Club, who separate fish heads, frames and offal into buckets, then contact Mr Hotene to come and pick it up.

Over the past year they've collected seven tonnes of offcuts.

"It is good because normally it would just go straight into the bins, straight into waste, where now it's feeding families in Mangere and it's going to good use," says Outboard Boating Club's Rob Curwain.

Fishing advocacy group Legasea bought fridges to store everything, and a van for the marae to pick it all up for delivery to emergency housing lodges in Mangere, where the heads and frames are put into smokers and eaten.

"The impact's huge," says Mr Hotene. "Just like you've seen with a couple of drop-offs at the lodge, usually we have people coming out with their bags really grateful for the valuable food source."

What doesn't get delivered directly to the community comes back to the marae kitchens and is used to make stock. The leftover offal is buried in the marae's community veggie garden, serving as nutrients to revitalise the kumara pits.

Whether it's sustainable for the marae to continue to fund the labour and petrol for the deliveries is Mr Hotene's next dilemma, but he says they're managing for now and wants others to give it a go too.

"I'd encourage all the marae around the motu to get on board and partner up with their local boating club and feed our people."

"It's a pilot scheme with the OBC but it's working really well and we're ironing out the wrinkles," says Legasea's Sam Woolford. "We've had enquiries from other clubs so we want to see it expand."

Expansion, with sustainability, is its long-term goal - sustaining communities who rely on good food and goodwill to survive.