Toby’s Seafood representing te ao Māori with kai

Friday night fish and chips are a treat for whānau throughout Aotearoa. With takeaway shops on nearly every corner, Pat Tobin, Director, Toby’s Seafood knows it is their te ao Māori approach that sets them apart. With counters full of fresh kaimoana and ika, a te reo Māori menu, legendary fry bread, and manaakitanga at the heart of their mahi they have a recipe for success.

Published: Rātū, 11 Whiringa ā-nuku, 2022 | Tuesday, 11 October 2022

One of only three 100 per cent Māori-owned businesses in the fresh fish and takeaways trade in Tāmaki, Toby’s as it is known to many, has gone from strength to strength due to the hard work of generations of whānau.

Pat remembers where it all started almost 35 years ago with an idea from his pāpā.

“We were dairy farmers in the Far North and the farm wasn’t bringing in enough money. My dad decided to start harvesting shellfish to sell at the markets.”

They quickly became vendors at the Otara, Avondale and Māngare markets. It wasn’t long before they took the next step.

“We started harvesting and retailing our own seafood. To start with, it was hard to break into the market, but this was part of a long-term plan to establish ourselves,” says Pat.

Their hard mahi paid off, and the first Toby’s, was opened in Otahuhu and has grown into a franchise with five locations throughout Tāmaki Makaurau, employing predominantly Māori kaimahi.

Fast forward to 2020, operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic did not come without challenges. Despite their established online presence and being able to continue to operate within the COVID-19 guidelines, the lockdowns took their toll on both the business and the mental wellbeing of kaimahi.

It was a phone call with Zella Morrison, Manager, Māori Enterprise at Te Puni Kōkiri that put Pat in touch with Adrienne Gulliver. Adrienne is a registered practitioner of the Demartini Method, a methodology designed to assist people to feel present, balance their emotional reactions and manage stress.

The COVID-19 2021 Whānau Recovery Fund supported Pat to engage Adrienne to provide mental health support for kaimahi. Pat has noticed a significant improvement in kaimahi wellbeing since working with Adrienne.

“Adrienne has been a big help for our team leaders. Working with them to manage, identify and provide solutions for their mental health.”

“Adrienne is Māori. She understands te ao Māori and this is what makes it work.”

The relationship with Te Puni Kōkiri has also supported Pat to form connections with Māori businesses across the motu.

“Te Puni Kōkiri has helped us connect with other Māori businesses, so we can support each other. We all share the same journey.”