A 20-foot shipping container modified into a fish-filleting station and distribution hub has seen a Mangere marae significantly increase its supply of fish heads and frames to feed families in need.

Located at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae, the bespoke structure was created by Royal Wolf (an Australasian company specialising in the hire, sale and modification of new/refurbished shipping containers) for the Kai Ika Project. Kai Ika redistributes fish off-cuts – which would normally go to waste – to the local community.

Project leader Sam Woolford says the container is the centrepiece of Kai Ika’s operation at the marae, and there are plans to roll out the initiative nationwide.

“It’s a practical solution that’s elevated the whole project. It’s allowed us to go from 250 kilos a week through to 1,000 kilos a week and service three other marae.” He adds that the benefit of the container’s increased capacity was underscored during the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown when queues for collecting fish were 400m 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 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 by 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.”

LegaSea, a not-for-profit organisation raising awareness of issues affecting the marine environment, started Kai Ika in 2016 to help feed communities in need. Kai Ika has been operating in Auckland in partnership with the Outboard Boating Club of Auckland on Tamaki Dr and at the Z Pier Charter Fleet at Westhaven Marina.

The 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 temperature during summer and the specialist electrical fit-out enables the unit to be washed out daily.