Summit to ready iwi for business

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 12:45 10/09/2012

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Ngai Tahu has thrown its weight behind the top of the south's inaugural Maori economic summit, agreeing to share its business experience with seven other iwi.

The two-day summit in Nelson next month pre-empts an expected $400 million cash and asset injection from Treaty settlements into the region.

It is hoped that iwi will leave the summit with a better understanding of how they might approach the business world after settlements are complete, through workshops and invited speakers.

Nelson City Council kaihautu (leader for iwi affairs) Geoff Mullen said seven of the region's eight iwi had signed up for the event, with Ngati Toa holding out as it was busy with its deed of settlement.

Mr Mullen, who is a member of the summit working group, said funding from Te Puni Kokiri fell through, but participating iwi contributed to a seeding fund for the summit and private companies had come up with about $45,000 to $50,000 in sponsorship.

Mr Mullen said the summit was about collaboration between different iwi groups, sharing ideas, and creating new opportunities and business partnerships.

"It's probably going to be the single biggest event for Te Tau Ihu in terms of movement in the economy. What we want to get out of it is that iwi will become bigger players in the region's economy, in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough," he said.

Mr Mullen said Ngai Tahu offered a wealth of business experience and already had individual agreements or memorandums of understanding between about three top of the south iwi, but there was scope for further co-operation.

Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon would talk about what it had learned since its $170m Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown in 1998, why partnerships mattered and ways businesses, the Government and iwi could work together.

Patrick Smith, of Kimi HR, who is also on the summit working group, said the summit had a strong focus on the primary industry sector, as this was where the majority of opportunities in the top of the south were and where a lot of Maori assets were traditionally based.

"Maori will play bigger and bigger parts in the primary sector. Through the Treaty settlement process, local iwi will actually own the land that forests are on. Maori will have more ownership in assets. They need to ensure that their Maori values are preserved and enhanced. It's about protecting the settlement as an asset and a treasure and making sure it becomes bigger," he said.

Mr Smith said if cash and assets from Treaty settlements were managed and invested well, they would lead to social, economic and cultural benefits for the whole community - not just Maori.

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Iwi were learning the value of collaborative and co-operative thinking and were starting to see the benefits of leveraging their collective interests as a critical mass. They also needed to be open to partnerships with non-Maori businesses and the Crown.

Mr Smith said he hoped non-Maori business owners would be interested in coming along to the summit.

The presentation and workshop programme features a lineup of speakers, including Nelson Forests managing director Lees Seymour and Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Gary Hooper.

PricewaterhouseCoopers director Hamiora Bowkett will talk about when and where to use co-investment models, drawing on case studies from around the country. Reece Moors, from Industrial Research, a Crown research institute, will talk about science and innovation systems supporting Maori development.

The Maori Economic Summit will be on October 18 and 19 at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson.

- The Nelson Mail

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