May 29, 2014

Growing food with our own hands

Maximising export opportunities for Māori businesses is especially important given the challenges faced by New Zealand in global markets. The Māori economy is substantial within New Zealand, totalling around $40 billion across a range of asset classes including:

  • 40 percent of forestry land
  • 38 percent of fishing quota
  • 30 percent of lamb production
  • 12 percent of beef and sheep units
  • 10 percent of dairy production
  • 10 percent of kiwifruit
  • further ownership of geothermal, digital, services, education and tourism.

Our aspirations are strong. We need to consider what the business models of the future will be, where we want to be in the value chain, how we can optimise our contribution to the New Zealand economy and who we will partner with.

In 2010, BERL quantified the Māori economy at $36.9 billion, and showed that by harnessing New Zealand’s investment in science and innovation, with the potential of Māori businesses we could generate another $12 billion in GDP and an extra 150,000 jobs a year by 2060. Conversely, a do-nothing approach could decrease our contribution to GDP by $3 billion and lead to 35,000 fewer jobs a year over the same timeframe.

Growth of the Maori economy 2006 2010

Growth of the Māori economy 2006-2010

Our capability in agriculture, fishing and farming provides a foundation for growth but need not rest there. It’s important that we upskill our people to participate in all areas of the economy, not just those in which we are asset rich. We have the capacity and the experience to succeed, and I also believe we have the motivation. The next generation of Māori will own decisions made by this generation, and the challenge is always to leave things in a better state than what was inherited.

Our strengths lie not just in economic assets but in our values and ideas. Whanaungatanga (the importance of relationships), Kaitiakitanga (guardianship of the environment), Rangatiratanga (self-determination or Māori control of Māori assets) and Manaakitanga (care of people) are practices that Māori have sustained for many generations and these values will always be at the forefront of our business operations.

The New Zealand International Business Awards

This year I will join Sir Wira Gardiner and Tina Wilson on a judging panel for a new category at the New Zealand International Business Awards. The Award is He kai kei aku ringa for Māori Excellence in Export, and it recognises Māori business contribution to the export economy. It is open to established export businesses and aims to support Māori who have created their own business opportunities, as well as recognising the importance that Maori place on nurturing relationships and controlling our assets.  

He kai kei aku ringa is the name given to the Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership strategy, and we agree it is a name fitting for this Award. \'He kai kei aku ringa\', as the foreword in the report notes, is an expression that was heard so often in earlier generations when times were tough. My grandparents’ generation endured two world wars, the Depression, massive land loss, and in their twilight years, the devastation of Māori communities. They would say that despite the adversity, we still had the ability to gather and grow our own kai or food with our own hands – He kai kei aku ringa. This was the metaphor for our resilience to survive as a people.

I strongly encourage Māori businesses to make use of this Award – to stand tall on the world’s stage, and to use our natural talents in relationship building, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga to take our businesses and people international. Previous NZIBA winners have said the recognition boosted staff morale and helped them recruit top staff and attract capital investment.

All businesses are offered advice from independent experts to improve capability and benchmark performance, networking opportunities with business leaders, pitch training and access to market research.

Māori tu, he Māori ora.  

The He kai kei aku ringa for Māori Excellence in Export Award is supported by The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Te Puni Kokiri, The Treasury. It recognises Māori business contribution to the New Zealand export economy – the approach, values and tikanga that underpin and uniquely define Māori business.

The New Zealand International Business Awards, run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, with the support of Strategic Partner ANZ, celebrate New Zealand businesses success in the world and recognise professional excellence and innovation practice. For more information about the Awards and entry criteria, visit  

Robin Hapi is a Board Member of NZTE and Callaghan Innovation, Chair of BERL, Chair of Te Wananga-o-Raukawa, former Chair of Te Aute Trust Board. He has extensive experience in the fisheries industry and has held the roles of Chair of Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd and Board Chair of Sealord Group. Previously he was CEO of Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd and CEO of the former Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. Robin is the inaugural recipient of the Haomoana Fellowship at Massey University. He is of Ngati Kahungunu descent and lives with his wife Kathy in Foxton.