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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Iwi heads look at economic opportunities

A hui in Hamilton today could reshape the Maori economy.

Tainui has invited leaders of some of the largest iwi and Maori incorporations to discuss prospects for collaboration.

They want to build on a cooperation deal signed between Tainui and Ngai Tahu last month.

Tainui and Ngai Tahu have combined settlement assets of more than a billion dollars, and may be ready to take on bigger deals than property developments, acquisition of existing tourism ventures or dairyconversions.

After 10 years building their business acumen, they're wanting to take other Maori along with them.

Entry to today's meeting required participants to have at least a $1 million available for investment.

Those able to pony up include Te Arawa, Tuwharetoa, Ngapuhi and Tuaropaki, a central North Island incorporation with more than 200 million in assets including farms, a geothermal power station and a telecommunications company.

Iwi leaders are tight lipped about what might be on the table - they have already picked up alarm from the Pakeha business community about the prospect of cashed up Maori muscling into the market.


Maori could be locked out of university study by changes in the way tertiary institutions are funded.

That's the fear of Metiria Turei, the Greens' education spokesperson.

It's likely Auckland's move to end its policy of open access for many undergraduate courses will be followed by other universities.

She says the remedy being offered, quotas for minority groups, puts Maori in a precarious position.

“They have said that their primary tool for making sure that Maori in particular get access is the use of quotas, and quotas are useful but they are highly politically sensitive and it is too easy for them to be ditched,” Ms Turei says.

She says the scrapping of the Manaaki Tauira scholarships in the wake of Don Brash's Orewa speech shows the risks of ethnically linked funding.


A Wellington kaumatua says his marae housing plan is the solution to the city's homeless problem

Bruce Stewart has been fighting for more than a decade to develop houses on 50 acres beside Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay.

He says city rents are too high for many young Maori, who often end up in substandard accommodation or on the streets.

“We want to build a village for Maoris that is very economical for them to be housed, not a place to live, a way to live. We have renewable energy so we have zilch cost for our power and heating our hot water and our houses where we can look after our old people again,” Mr Stewart says.

Tapu Te Ranga was built in 1974 by young Maori homeless.


The Green's Maori spokesperson wants a proposed Maori business fund used for smaller scale regional development.

Metiria Turei says the Greens will back the Maori Trustee and Maori Development Amendment Bill, which will use $35 million of the trustee's accumulated profits to start such a fund.

She's waiting to see details of how the fund will work, but says the focus shouldn't just be on big schemes.

“We've got this huge vast amount of unproductive land that we haven’t had the money to develop yet. We’ve got a huge amount of community economic initiatives in quite poor places that need support to get going and if they do get going they can be quite good businesses and employ local people, so I want to see how the criteria for using the money is set,” Ms Turei says.

She says it is positive that the bill will make the Maori Trust Office a standalone agency, instead of being part of Te Puni Kokiri.


More effort is need to address low literacy and numeracy among adult Maori.
Phil O'Reilly from Business New Zealand says it's a problem which affects the country's productivity.

An international survey has found that while overall literacy skills of New Zealanders improved over the last decade, 75 percent of Maori had numeracy below the level needed to function effectively in a knowledge economy.

He says while the government is tackling issues of Maori under-achievement in the school system, that avenue is closed for thousands of workers.

“The vast majority of young Maori and old who can’t read, write and add up enough to do their jobs are already in the workforce, so a lot of the work needs to happen there, and we’re working with government and with the trade unions on some programmes to enable a much wider delivery of literacy and numeracy skills in the workplace,” Mr O'Reilly says.


Involvement from the whole community is needed to stop prisoners reoffending.

That's the philosophy of Barney Tihema, a former head of Hawke's Bay Prison's Maori Focus Unit and now an advisor on Maori services for the Department of Corrections.

This week the unit celebrated its tenth birthday.

Mr Tihema says it only succeeded because of the efforts of kaumatua, whanau liaison workers and other volunteers who were willing to stand by inmates on their journey.

“They take hold of tikanga Maori. They learn their whakapapa. They start to identify with where they belong and sometimes that’s not reflected the community. It’s something we find really difficult, but it‘s about us working more closely with the community and involving them more in our core business of rehabilitation and reintegration,” Mr Tihema says.

The Maori Focus Unit grew out of reo and kapa haka programmes, and now includes a range of services including Maori therapeutic programmes.


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