Tainui chase big money Chinese contacts

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014

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Iwi courting Chinese cash have welcomed a top diplomat to the heart of Kingitanga country as they look to capitalise on their burgeoning relationship.

Chinese consul-general to the Auckland and Waikato regions Niu Qingbao planted two native trees, a rengarenga and a kawariki, at Te Ohaaki Marae in Huntly in what Te Riu o Waikato general manager Ricky Maipi said was a symbolic gesture of the growing bond this week.

"It further cements our relationship both spiritually, culturally and obviously we are looking now to doing something commercially," said Mr Maipi.

The choice of plants was inspired by a saying of the second Maori King, Tawhiao, who called on his tribe to build with native timber and nurture themselves on native shrubs.

Mr Maipi visited the consul-general for the Auckland and Waikato regions in December and the pair agreed to collaborate on strengthening trade and cultural relations.

"It's something we have been fostering now for 12 months since his new appointment here as the consul-general and in the midst of that, he is very keen to further those relationships, particularly with iwi."

Chinese companies have made significant plays in the region's primary sector with the $220 million Yashili infant milk formula plant in Pokeno and Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of the 16 North Island dairy farms that made up the Crafar farms.

Mr Maipi said the iwi had no commodities to trade with China but there were openings for both sides.

"The only thing that we have to offer is the opportunity to invest in Waikato-Tainui - in its commercial development, property in the main but also the opportunity in terms of construction, roading," he said.

"Part of their delegation was the chief executive for their Auckland-based China tourism agency and they are interested in engaging in some of those unique tourism opportunities that give a more authentic presentation to their people coming into the country."

Mr Maipi said the meeting was a milestone in the long-term vision to allow whanau groups to build their own businesses and included a visit with Te Wananga o Aotearoa boss Jim Mather and Tainui Group Holdings CEO Mike Pohio.

"We were able to share with Mike Pohio the aspirations of Tainui within the inland port and that development long term."

Waikato mayor Allan Sanson said he worked closely with iwi and backed any initiative that brought jobs and industry to the district.

"I would encourage and support anything that can be done around economic development, whether that be with Chinese and iwi or Chinese and whoever," he said.

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The Yashili development was just the tip of Chinese investment iceberg and he was keen to see more.

"Any encouragement into that, that actually provides employment for our people, I would be very, very keen to participate in and support in any way I can."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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