$42 billion Maori economy about more than just Treaty settlements

Anna Davis, owner of Office Furniture First, is passionate about Maori business.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Anna Davis, owner of Office Furniture First, is passionate about Maori business.


Anna Davis runs her business in a family environment. 

Maori are quite big on family culture, says Davis, who owns Office Furniture First in Waiwhakaiho, New Plymouth.

"We treat everybody who comes in the door like they are your own family. It's one of the cultural things you instill into your team.

"It's part of that whole culture of belonging, she says.

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A few years ago Davis started a Maori business network in New Plymouth with about 120 members.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui  boss Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is also on the Maori Economic Development Advisory Board.
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui boss Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is also on the Maori Economic Development Advisory Board.

She had to step away a couple of years ago and it fizzled out, but she says people are talking about starting it up again.

"I really am passionate about Maori business, seeing them grow, see them have confidence to develop and step forward."

Davis is part of the $42.6 billion Maori economy.  

And, despite what most people think, the bulk of this economy doesn't come from big hitting tribal organisations such as Ngai Tahu or Waikato-Tainui.

Maori employers, while largely flying under the radar have amassed assets of $22.4b, according to a 2013 report by Business and Economic Research Ltd (Berl).

Maori who are self employed have a combined asset base of $6.6b assets and the remaining $12.5b is owned by Maori trusts, incorporations, and other collectively owned enterprises, such as tribal organisations managing Treaty settlement funds.

Head of the Maori Studies School at Victoria University Maria Bargh, who is Te Arawa and Ngati Awa, says a lot of people think the Maori economy is all about Treaty settlements.

"But when you look at the numbers it's all these enterprises that are happening quite separately from whatever the tribal organisations are doing."

The Maori economy is more entwined with the wider New Zealand economy than people think, says Victoria University's ...

The Maori economy is more entwined with the wider New Zealand economy than people think, says Victoria University's Maria Bargh.

Tribal authorities look long term and take a more intergenerational approach, she says.

"Sometimes that's because they're based on Maori land and people have a historical connection with that land and they care about passing it down in good condition for their grandchildren."

One organisation she has heard of has a 300-year plan, she says.

"That's to maintain the resource for future generations, particularly if there is land, there is that connection there." 

The Maori economy is very important, she says.

"It's more entwined with the rest of the New Zealand economy than people think. I think that it's a huge part of the (national) economy already, but people haven't been taking much notice of it." 

But it won't go unnoticed for long.

EY Tahi managing partner Selwyn Hayes says a booming Maori economy is good for New Zealand.
supplied

EY Tahi managing partner Selwyn Hayes says a booming Maori economy is good for New Zealand.

The Maori population in the region is considerably younger - with a median age of 23.5 - than the Taranaki province as whole, where the median age is 39.9.

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And it's expected that by 2023, almost 60 per cent of Maori in the region will be aged 15-64 years.

So, as Venture Taranaki reported last year, Maori are going to play an increasingly important role in the future of the region's workforce. 

A STATE OF BALANCE

A Berl study from 2008 reported Taranaki Maori as having an asset base of at least $768 million.

At the time Maori contributed $459 million to the Taranaki region's GDP, accounting for around 10 percent of total regional GDP. And that was before Ngaruahine, $67.5m, and Te Atiawa, $87m, settled their Treaty claims in 2014.

Ngati Ruanui settled in 2003 with a $41m deal. 

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui boss Debbie Ngarewa-Packer doesn't think the increase of the Maori economy necessarily gives Maori more power.

"The Maori economy is bringing it back to what it was -  a state of balance. When you say power, it says we dominate."

But what they want to do is reclaim the same position they occupied before the land confiscations, she says.

"There used to be a strong Maori economy before the Treaty. Lots of trading, flour mills. Humans were living here and living well. This isn't the first time a Maori economy has existed."

Ngati Ruanui owns a medical centre with 6000 patients, 51 per cent Maori and 49 per cent non Maori; two childcare centres; and kaumatua flats in Patea, so are involved with social housing, she says.

They give out education grants all year round, as well as sports scholarships. 

"We make sure everything makes impact on education, health and wellbeing.

"We also partner with 14 other iwi - we have the largest commercial fishing entity. And we bought the Mountain House, because we want to protect the mountain but also for tourism."

The iwi is also involved with horticulture.

They are learning about exporting, horticulture, commercial fishing and other areas they lost when they lost their land, she says.

"We're also learning to buy, sell and trade with our own dollars." 

MAORI INNOVATION

Ngarewa-Packer, who is on the Maori Economic Development Advisory Board, says many Maori businesses around the country are involved in exporting and there has been an increase in the number Maori entrepreneurs.

And there are stats to show that Maori business people are innovators.

The rate of innovation in small to medium Maori businesses, with 100 or fewer employees, was 63 per cent, Statistics New Zealand figures show.

That is considerably higher than the "whole" of New Zealand business rate of 49 per cent.

And in the country as a whole, only 1 per cent of businesses are performing three or four types of innovation, compared to 26 per cent of Maori businesses.

EY Tahi managing partner Selwyn Hayes says there are a number of government initiatives focusing on start up accelerators and incubators.

"It's a great thing for the country. Any good in that space for Maori is going to be great for New Zealand."

There has been a lot of media focus on the trials and tribulations of large iwi organisations, Hayes, who is Ngai Tai, Te Whakatohea, Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi and  Ngati Apa, says.

"Everyone knows about Ngai Tahu and Tainui, but there are large chunks of the economy under the radar. It's an amazing subject and a huge challenge to try and figure out how to grow that part of the economy,  so it ultimately provides a lot of opportunities and growth for the country." 

Maori run businesses differently to non Maori, and have different challenges.

"A lot of it is to do with cultural values over things like the land and cultural nuances around leadership and governance. There are different process to go through regarding investments, vis a vis what a New Zealand corporate would go through. There are considerations like triple and quadruple bottom line."

If a business wanted to focus on growing its return it would focus on financial aspects, whereas Maori are largely driven by non financial aspects, like the environment and their obligation to look after places and spaces they work from, he says.

"Our people are making sure we don't invest in something that is going to denigrate our culture and our beliefs and social aspirations.

"Largely, our people have been on the wrong end of government processes and socio economic circumstances which means the typical governor sitting on a board thinks about those things as well as thinking about making money."

 - Stuff

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