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Tainui and South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu had become powerful
machines in their respective regions. Both now operate
successful billion-dollar enterprises with property, tourism,
seafood, venture capital interests.
There are also less visible Māori trusts and incorporations
that existed before the modern settlement process ramped up
in the 1990s. They were built over the past century by pooling
land shares to create sizeable entities and they rival some of
the big settlement iwi in scale with interests in geothermal
power plants, property development, technology and
The 2010 TPK research found a total asset base worth
NZ$36.9m. By 2013 this had increased to NZ$42.6b. GDP from
Māori economy producers totalled NZ$11b, dominated by
income from the primary sector.
There are challenges. While the asset base is improving in
size and value, the productivity of those assets remains below
Economic research consultancy BERL has noted: “The nature
of many of the land-based assets (restricted access, limited
potential, and/or difficult management/ownership structures)
tends to make this below-average outcome inevitable. However,
the broadening of Māori asset interests across a range of sectors
(processing and manufacturing, tourism, property, education,
health and social service provision, along with SMEs in building
and construction, manufacturing, retail, transport and other
sectors) lessens this inevitability.”
History not on repeat
Competition often defines the relationship between New
Zealand and Australia, but it’s a feature missing from Māori
tribal businesses when they talk about the potential for
Indigenous corporations to flourish in Australia (see p26 for
more on developments in Australia).
For players such as Raumati, there’s a strong sense that
whatever can be done from Aotearoa’s side of the ditch to
smooth the way for those building Australian Indigenous
businesses, should be done.
Unspoken bonds exist through the shared experience of
colonialism and its attendant baggage: land, language and
There is no arrogance when Raumati says that Māori
support for Indigenous businesses in Australia is
“Our support is moral – we can’t be competitive in this
space. We’re just so much bigger, so much more developed
and it’s our job to help them.”
KPMG’s Joe Hanita FCA used to work for Raumati at Te
Wānanga o Aotearoa, a national tertiary institute started by
Maori. They share a passion for indigenous development.
Hanita says the conditions for success are pretty simple.
“You need a clear, long-term aspirational strategy which
influences your decision making.
“All our [Māori] organisations have to achieve the
aspirations of our people. At the end of the day we’re striving
to make sure they ultimately benefit.”
Iwi businesses need to be around for as long as their
members are – with high birth rates the outlook has to be
That intergenerational approach to increasing
wealth and wellbeing has affected the way Māori
incorporations have acted.
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between British
settlers and Māori chiefs.
It’s been called New Zealand’s founding document and was
an agreement which gave the Crown the right to govern while
promising Māori full rights to their property including lands, forests
A century of fairly consistent land loss by Māori, including
mass confiscations, followed the signing of the Treaty. Protest
movements and court action during the 1970s and 1980s led to an
acceptance that cultural and commercial redress was necessary
for historical injustices.
Successive New Zealand governments have negotiated multi-
million-dollar deals with iwi (Māori tribes) in order to deal with
Over NZ$1b has been transferred to 50 iwi since the first
NZ$170m deal was struck between the National government and
Tainui in 1995. This has grown into a Māori economic asset base
worth more than NZ$40b.
THE NEW MĀORI ECONOMY
FOCUS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
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