WHERE TO FOR MÄORI IN THE NEW ZEALAND ECONOMY?
Notes for an address by the Minister of Mäori Affairs to the Tai Tokerau Economic Development Summit, 29 July 1999
I am proud to be given this opportunity to participate in the Tai Tokerau Economic Development Summit. There is much to
discuss. Much to decide. And much at stake. The eyes and ears of the North are on us. We have the hopes and the future
of the people in our care. We must rise to the occasion.
I for one am up to it. How could I not be? Our pride is challenged. Kei te karanga mai, kei te korero mai, o tätau
maunga. We must each respond according to our situation. And if anyone is not up to it, let them stand aside for the
To the old men of Tai Tokerau, your heavy labours are behind you. You have led your people successfully into the new
world. There is just one more task, before you can retire with honour to your mokopuna. You must arrange for the
A new generation is needed for the new millennium. It is the young who must take light from the past, and find their way
into the future.
This is not the first “new beginning”. But let it be the final one, the one carried through to completion. And for once,
let our talk not be about fish, or about the Treaty, or about grievance and settlement.
Yes, we will take what we are offered. But let it be with the air of someone who is paid a debt and stuffs it in his
pocket without counting. They are contemptible, these debts of the Crown. Made even more shameful by the Crown’s miserly
approach to paying them. I for one am sick of them.
There is a new generation of Mäori who are not prepared to wait for the fruits of justice. Neither for the Crown, nor
for the Mäori leadership to resolve itself and act. Such passive waiting is unbecoming and boring.
The new Mäori stand for action. There are many here among us to inspire us with their example. Others may be too busy
growing their businesses, to be coming here and talking about it.
We are here to forge new contacts, renew old ones, and learn from one another. Let this hui be the first of many, and
well before the year is out, we must have our strategic vision for the North.
That’s what this conference is about. Let us take stock of where we are, agree on our goals, and move forward with a
common purpose, capitalising on our strengths.
What you may not realise is how far you have already come. The kernel of Mäori economic power is already in place.
Nourished by the financial might of our large corporations, sparked by the energy of our new entrepreneurs it will grow.
The economic re-conquest of Aotearoa has begun.
These are not idle words. It’s already happening! It won’t show in statistics for a while. Lost generations cannot be
redeemed overnight. But I am convinced that the corner has been turned on a path that will now lead upwards for the
Already, Mäori are major players in every economic sector. Three billion dollars in agriculture. Over a billion dollars
in forestry and fishing. With housing and all other business added in, Mäori today command assets totalling eleven
All that is needed now to clinch the Mäori ascendancy, is to make sure that these assets are reinvested in the future of
Yes, land was taken, but there are still one-and-a-half million hectares in Mäori ownership. Mäori are the biggest
players in New Zealand fishing, controlling maybe 60% of one of the largest fisheries on the planet. All 1.2 billion
square miles of it!
If you doubt the extent of the Mäori economic rebirth, let me refer you to one of Te Puni Kökiri’s projects which I am
releasing here today. It will stimulate our discussions. I present a new publication: “Mäori in the New Zealand
Economy”. [Hold up a copy]. There are free copies here for all of us, and it’s a complete snapshot of Mäori in the New
Zealand economy today.
The picture it paints is broad-ranging. We see the figures on Mäori land use, sketches of the big Mäori corporations,
our innovative new industries, social policy issues, the arts, everything! It’s beautifully produced. I congratulate my
department, and I am proud to launch “Mäori in the New Zealand Economy” at this conference here today.
This book shows clearly how far we have come, and places beyond doubt the power and potential of Mäori in the economy.
And yet, one question nags me: What is our goal and vision? Are we going to emulate the Päkeha, grasping at profits in
every direction, until we lose ourselves?
We have a chance to do better than that. We still know who we are as a people. We have spent a hundred years fighting
our way back from extinction. And we have succeeded, against all the arrogant predictions. We did it! We survived! We
are still here! And we are still Mäori! That is what gives the point to everything, isn’t it?
Are there some of you who are only interested in business success, however it can be got? You have been given a free
market to play in. Go and play in it, and lose yourselves like the Päkeha. That is not the Mäori way.
The Mäori way is that we must care for the people, and move forward together.
When you lend, borrow, buy, sell, ask first how it might strengthen Mäori. When you employ someone, look first among the
people. That must be our vision. We will succeed. But we must succeed as Mäori.
We did not fight all this way from the gumfields, the windowless huts, the epidemics, the factory labour, just to lose
at the end by forgetting who we are.
That would be a wild farce and a tragedy. Because our Mäoritanga is by no means exhausted. The full force of its
unquenchable spirit is yet to be felt in the new world of business. We outmatched the Päkeha on the field of battle. Now
let us outmatch them in the boardroom.
The reason for my confidence is that I know we retain our Mäori qualities. This is no delusion. You can feel it every
bit as much as me. When we are at our best, there is a spirit in Mäoridom which outshines everything.
It comes from our collective soul. It comes from our warrior breeding. From our traditions of cunning, politics,
diplomacy, negotiation. From defiance, endurance, determination. And finally it comes from aroha.
Let us therefore agree upon a common vision of what we shall use these gifts for, at the dawn of the new age. Are they
for making money? Yes, we can do that. We already are.
I am convinced that the critical mass of the Mäori asset base has already been reached. That means that provided we
re-invest in Mäori business and social development, our asset base will accelerate and grow.
But I would not be satisfied with using the great gifts of Mäori just for making money. We have to use them to restore
the mana of our people, and make us great again. It was for that purpose that the gifts of our true parents were
nourished and honed through the long ages before the Päkeha.
Their purpose is the survival of the people. They have served us well, and they still stand sharp today, ready for use.
Today we use them not for survival, we have accomplished that, but to reclaim our birthright.
Do you still think our survival will be assured by the Treaty? We cannot depend on it. It’s power will wane, as Päkeha
once again find it irksome.
The Treaty was signed to protect Mäori development, and in the first few years it did so. Mäori took to the new
commercial opportunities like ducks to water. By the 1850’s we had thousands of acres in wheat, maize, potatoes and
livestock. We had ships that sailed to Sydney and other Australian ports.
The trouble was, we did too well. The settlers were having a hard time of it. As soon as they got the numbers, they put
a stop to us. But not before we had proved we have what it takes. That’s why I say we can do it again.
But this time we will not be betrayed by our trusting nature. It is not possible for Päkeha to share fully with Mäori.
We can get along fine together, and I firmly intend to, but only on a basis of equals.
Equals cuts both ways. Equals means the Crown does not have to protect Mäori any more than anyone else. Equals means no
handouts, no favours. And finally, it means a new status for the Treaty. Let the Treaty stay with us as a revered
taonga, and a charter for the nation, but no longer a crutch.
We will take this current round of settlements, but then our thoughts must move beyond the Treaty. This requires
economic development based on business growth. So long as we rely on justice and the Treaty, we will not learn to rely
We must be ready for the time that Päkeha lose patience with the Treaty. By that time, we must be forging ahead on our
The future hope of Mäori must not be in the Treaty, but in economic and political power. The power of numbers. That is
the only power we can depend on. And under MMP, even quite small parties can wield plenty. And we must use that power to
slot in with our strategy for Mäori development.
That strategy is to exploit our Mäori collective spirit in the economic re-conquest of Aotearoa. Our power in Parliament
must be used to create the conditions under which our native commercial prowess can flourish.
The Budget this year responds to the need for Mäori skill development, both on the shop floor and in the boardroom. Six
point eight million dollars will be targeted to Mäori trade training over the next three years.
Partnerships between the Government, Mäori organisations and employers will place unemployed Mäori into subsidised
employment with an industry training agreement.
Also in the Budget the Government is investing $8.2 million over three years to encourage the productive use of Mäori
land, stimulate the creation of new Mäori business and help young Mäori into permanent jobs.
A special purpose organisation will purchase advice for Mäori landowners and entrepreneurs to help them build successful
I am grateful for the work of the Mäori Development Commissions which has given me the ammunition to argue for these
programmes in Cabinet. But even these address only the skill development side. As you know, the other big lack is access
to venture capital.
I see just this week that the Government has mooted venture funding for small business. I will stand and applaud this
“about-face”. It is a victory for common sense.
It is what I and many others of you have been pointing out for a long time. It joins tax breaks for business as another
one of Mauri Pacific’s ideas that have been picked up by a major party.
I will believe it when I see it, of course. Meanwhile, Mäori business will continue to have to pull itself up by its
bootstraps. We will hear from some of our young business warriors who are doing just that.
They don’t want settlements or handouts. All they ask for is a playing field which is half-way level. That’s all Mäori
can hope for, under Päkeha government.
But combined with our whanaungatanga, it is enough. What is more moving or inspiring than the many stories of our people
who have created a business out of nothing but resourcefulness and determination?
But what does the Government do as soon as a new business sticks its head up? It slaps a 33 percent tax on it. It
religiously and dogmatically takes its one third cut of every business profit.
Don’t they know there aren’t any profits for a fledgling business? It’s food and rent for the whänau that they’re
taking. So how can the business survive? The Government couldn’t have a more anti-business development policy if it
We have been the victims of a slavish adherence to textbook theories of economic management. I am not claiming to be an
economic guru. What I am saying is no more than any critic of policy would say.
I am asking: what are the objectives of economic management? It is reasonable to expect some objectives. You don’t have
to be an economic whiz kid to ask that.
The only economic objective I can see operating is to be holier than everybody else. More de-regulated, more flat-taxed,
more deflated, more balanced in the books. But where is it getting us? I assume the objective is economic growth, but
where are the policies to stimulate new business?
At least I am making a suggestion. Let us forget about economic purity for a moment and have a look at countries which
are succeeding by using their brains. Ireland, for example, where tax incentives were introduced four years ago and
today unemployment is halved, with many new industries formed.
I believe that new industry can be encouraged to Tai Tokerau through regional tax incentives, and that this would not
necessarily reduce business or taxation derived from elsewhere in the economy. All I am asking is that this and others
of my proposals be looked at on their merits, rather than through the blinkers of economic purism.
You don’t hear the same criticism of tax breaks for individuals. Yes, I would rather keep taxes at current levels and
use savings for targeted development. The Dominion newspaper replies that I am “lined up against the interests of the
more than two million people who stand to benefit from the tax cut”.
You see, that is the Dominion’s risible definition of being better off. You have a few more dollars to spend as you
please. They overlook the fact that individuals cannot purchase significant improvements in society within acceptable
Only the government can provide the co-ordination of personal spending decisions needed to purchase hospitals,
universities, business assistance, more police, or whatever is needed. Ten more dollars a week in the hands of the rich
will go merely on luxuries from Japan.
It is obvious that before you can have a big business, you have to start with a small one. The Government has only just
realised that. For years the objective of business assistance was to grow the firms that were already big. It was
quantity of business that counted, not diversity.
If this policy has worked, it isn’t obvious, looking at our comparative growth figures. Furthermore, it seems to be
against common sense.
We should instead try to create as many new businesses as possible, using any means available. Sure, lots will fall
over. That is the nature of business. But not all will fall over. And some will go on to be the big employers, the big
exporters, and the big tax-payers of tomorrow.
Ladies and gentlemen, the full economic potential of Tai Tokerau remains to be unlocked. Some of you here today will
find the keys, perhaps in unexpected directions.
Whether it will be in the established industries of farming, fishing, and forestry, or newer ones such as tourism,
organic products and the information age, I cannot say. It is not my role here to speak in place of the many experts we
have lined up for us.
But I do understand what it is that motivates us Mäori people, and what is at stake for us. It is the unstoppable drive
to be Mäori in our own land. And to be able to reclaim our mana, and hold our heads up once again.
It will take many things before we are safely home, but they are all in our power. We need new, younger leadership. We
need the confidence that will be built at conferences such as this one, where we see some of the flower of our
entrepreneurial talent in attendance.
We will need the confidence to climb up on the back of the Treaty, but finally to stand on our own feet. What is the
Treaty, except a share in the future of Päkeha? Let the Päkeha share our future, if they can hack the pace.
But most of all, we must hold true to our Mäoritanga. With our networks of kin, our resourcefulness and defiance, our
roots in the living earth, our mauri in the soil of Aotearoa, we can reclaim our country. Being Mäori is a competitive
edge that Päkeha cannot even dream about.