Maori business is New Zealand business

Traci Houpapa
Maori business is New Zealand business

Over a century ago my tupuna secured their assets by forming a landholding entity, Te Uranga B2 Incorporation, of which I am the current chairman. Based in the King Country, we have interests in dairy, sheep and beef, forestry, and off-farm investments.

At our recent annual review, we endorsed a 100-year strategic plan that builds on the founding principles: to retain ownership, tread lightly upon the land, engage with the local community, and ensure our mokopuna’s mokopuna live a healthier, wealthier life.

This story of commercial success echoes across other Maori trusts and incorporations. The emerging management model for Maori asset holders sees Maori exercising kaitiakitanga over large-scale natural resources, ensuring they are well managed, forming strategic partnerships, and producing strong revenues for future generations.

SEE ALSO: Kiwis taking on the world and winning


A snapshot of the Maori economic sector

There are over 27,000 Maori legal entities presiding over 1.2 million hectares of New Zealand land. 62% are pastoral, 27% forestry, 10% dairy, and almost 1% horticulture and arable.

Maori have interests in around 50% of all fisheries and aquaculture, and are an emerging presence in viticulture, horticulture, commercial property, energy, and tourism.

In 2001 the asset base of the Maori economy was worth an estimated $9.4 billion. By 2010, this figure had risen to $36.9 billion.* While these might be impressive figures, the true value is in our ability to leverage our asset base for increased sustainable return.


Common myths

Not all Maori economic activity takes place at Iwi level, as many suppose. In fact, the majority of Maori economic development over the past 30 years has been driven by Maori trusts and incorporations. Iwi economic development is principally a direct result of the government’s Treaty settlement process, and has only just tipped $1 billion, equating to around $1,500 per person – hardly enough to retire on.

While whakapapa continues to have its place in terms of identifying Iwi and hapu membership, its influence as a primary determinant of leadership is being increasingly replaced by skill, experience, and merit.


Culture and commercialism

The government’s growth agenda resonates with Maori. To grow, this country must maintain its global trade and exporting relationships while securing new routes to market through collaborative and coordinated trade arrangements. With the door to Asia wide open and China as our largest trading partner, balancing cultural and commercial imperatives is a challenge not only for Maori; it’s a challenge for us all.

One example of how this can be achieved successfully is Miraka, a Maori-owned company that processes milk from 50,000 Maori-owned dairy cows, is powered by the Maori-owned Tuaropaki geothermal power station – and has partnered with the Vietnamese company VinaMilk.


The role of Maori women

Maori boardrooms are embracing diversity. At Chief Executive level, Tainui, Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahu are just some examples of Iwi led by women.

Maori women are also outpacing Maori men in higher education, which will have a flow-on effect to the emerging leaders of the next decade. And while our glass ceiling is still sometimes tinted brown, the more Maori recognise the value of gender diversity in business, the more likely we are to see change on our marae.


The future

Maori and Iwi are significant stakeholders in the future of New Zealand. The regions are our economic heartland, where our assets are and our people live. Our long-term viewpoint and inter-generational commitment make us ideal partners for domestic and international investment.

Described as an emerging economy-within-an-economy, the potential to optimise and leverage the Maori asset base provides a platform for exciting opportunities.

Maori leaders will be judged on our dedication to improving the wealth and wellbeing of our people, our communities, and our country. The principle “what is good for Maori is good for New Zealand” has come of age.

Today, let’s consider how we can work together to build a brighter future for Aotearoa NZ Inc.

SEE ALSO: Kiwis taking on the world and winning


Traci Houpapa

Traci Houpapa is a finalist in the Board and Management category of the Women of Influence Awards. The winners are announced on 8 October. 

Traci specialises in strategic and economic development, advising Maori, Iwi, and public and private sector clients throughout New Zealand. She is a partner in Hamilton-based THS & Associates.

Traci is an experienced company director, and holds a number of directorships and Ministerial appointments. She is the first female chairman of the Federation of Maori Authorities since its establishment in 1987, representing a mainly primary sector asset base valued at around $8 billion. She’s also acting chair of the state owned enterprise, LandCorp Farming Limited. Traci chairs Te Uranga B2 Incorporation a Maori-owned family farming entity and the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women.  

She holds governance roles on the Waikato River Authority, Nga Pae O Te Maramatanga, Diverse NZ Inc, the Rural Broadband Initiative National Advisory Committee, Strada Corporation and the Beef+Lamb Wool Levy Group.

Traci has an MBA from Massey University, and is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a Justice of the Peace, and a marriage celebrant.   



* BERL (2010), The Asset Base, Income, Expenditure and GDP of the 2010 Maori Economy

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