Sunny Nelson lived up to its name for the formal welcome of the Sealord trawler Tokatu this week.

The 83-metre vessel in its smart blue and white livery towered over a wharf side marquee where 150 guests were welcomed.

It was a day to be proud of, a big day for Nelson and for us, Sealord chair Whaimutu Dewes said.

The $70 million vessel was jointly funded by Sealord’s equal shareholders – iwi-owned Moana New Zealand and Japan’s Nippon Suisan Kaisha.

Sir Tipene O'Regan, an architect of the Maori fisheries settlement that led to the establishment of the current Sealord company, which he chaired for its first 10 years, took the opportunity to put a shot across Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash's bows.

This was not a time to adopt a threatening pose, he told Nash, who was a guest at the ceremony along with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, "but reviewing the QMS (Quota Management System) is something you do at your peril".

"We fought a great battle to move to an adoption of that system and the merging of Treaty rights within it."

He noted approvingly that Nash was signalling from his seat that the QMS was not an issue.

The QMS was a blunt instrument that needed refining but it remained the most effective fisheries management regime developed anywhere in the world, Sir Tipene said.

The biggest threat to the fishery was a huge recreational sector that was uncontrolled and incapable of being policed.

Sir Tipene said the setting up of Sealord in 1993 under the Treaty settlement required overcoming generations of grievance and “piscatorial illiteracy”.

Vessels were initially named after immigrant ships to New Zealand - Whitby, Fifeshire, Will Watch – but there was a push for Maori names to reflect the altered shareholding.

Thomas Harrison was acceptable because both Sir Tipene’s and then Fisheries Minister Doug Kidd’s great grandfathers were aboard it.

The two were brothers.

Tokatu is the rock that withstands the power of the sea.

The vessel is the first new New Zealand-owned trawler in a generation and represents the largest ever single investment.

Minister Nash cited the importance of the fishing industry and said the QMS provided the certainty needed to invest.

He said the Tokatu which was fitted with a gym, cinema, wifi and hotel-style two-man cabins with ensuites, had been described as a “floating palace” by a fisheries observer in his report.

Nissui chair Norio Hosomi said there had been maximum co-operation in the partnership over 17 years, through good and bad times.

Sealord was prepared to sacrifice profits in favour of healthy resource control, he said.

Steve Yung, Sealord chief executive, said the decision was made three years ago to bolster the fleet with a new freezer trawler.

The arrival of Tokatu was a sign of the company's optimism.

He noted Rex Chapman’s role as skipper and the support of his board and management team.

He also paid tribute to crew member Patahi Kawana, who was lost overboard from the Sealord hoki trawler Otakou last month.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese cut a ribbon before guests were given tours of the ship.

Tokatu arrived in Nelson from Norway in June and has been fishing for hoki on the west coast.

It was due to sail last night to fish for mackerel off Taranaki.