Many of the Maori references mention modern cooking methods!
The first URL is a nicely written piece about how Maori have used fish. It mentions that historically, much fresh seafood is cooked laying it on heated rocks. Much was also dried. Later on, in the 20th century, the article says “the cooking methods were not imaginative”. Lol. That doesn’t quite get to answering your question, but it does suggest an answer: They’re simply putting the leaf on it to keep in the heat and moisture. As to why the white side up? The non-white side, which faces the sun, probably has more resistance to being soaked by the rising steam.
The second URL has a para on how to select the best flounder.
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