Trade on the agenda at Turangawaewae

Iwi welcomes 26 international diplomats

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 10:13 21/08/2014
Turangawaewae
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Diplomats from 26 countries are led on to Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia for the Koroneihana celebrations yesterday.

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Trade talks were put on the agenda as the billion-dollar iwi welcomed 26 international diplomats to Ngaruawahia.

The Maori King, Tuheitia, invited the diplomats to the centre of the Kingitanga movement at Turangawaewae Marae for the annual Koroneihana celebrations.

More than 200 iwi members had gathered for the penultimate day of the annual Koroneihana celebrations.

The king's spokesman, Tukoroirangi Morgan, told the diplomats that long-term relationships and direct trade discussion would be high on the agenda.

"So that we might talk about trade, about enduring relationships and about possibilities that have been, for a long time, aspirational," he said.

The 11 ambassadors, five high commissioners and assorted other diplomats were led on to the marae by the Ratana Church brass band and were met by a wero and and a stirring haka powhiri.

The visitors included Thai ambassador Noppadon Theppitak, US diplomat Marie Damour and Chinese political counsellor Fang Qui.

Other delegates included Spanish ambassador Manuel Viturro Del La Torre, Russian ambassador Valery Tereshchenko and Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts.

In July, the tribe's financial arm, Tainui Group Holdings, reported their total assets had grown by $133 million over the past year to $1.1 billion.

Last week TGH went into partnership with Ngai Tahu Capital to buy Australian-owned New Zealand-based bus operator Go Bus for $170m.

A deal was also announced with Ngai Tahu and Pioneer Capital to buy a 33 per cent holding in Waikato Milk Systems.

In May, economists Berl said the Maori economy was worth around $40b and investment in science and innovation and the potential of Maori businesses could generate another $12b in GDP and 150,000 jobs each year by 2060.

Morgan said Waikato Tainui tribes were in a position to talk seriously about trade opportunities and it was time to strike.

"Today is the beginning of a new chapter as we look forward so that we might enjoy prosperity under the cloak of goodwill, respect and the commitment to work with each other."

He said Maori had traded internationally more than a century ago but the land wars and subsequent land confiscations had depleted the Waikato asset base.

But he said they had turned a corner and wanted more.

"We have moved on and your coming here is about moving on."

Te Arataura chairman Rahui Papa said their arrival was the fulfilment of the second Maori King Tawhiao's proverb that Turangawaewae was a place for all people of the world to stand.

The diplomats pressed the flesh with kaumatua and kuia and went indoors for a private audience with King Tuheitia before a photo opportunity beneath their nations' flags on River Rd before they were whisked away.

elton.smallman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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