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Buy Local Is Good, Buy Māori Is Better

Te Hiku communities are being encouraged to go one better in the local economic recovery effort than to buy local. And that’s to buy Māori.

As the economic ravages of COVID-19 permeate globally and nationally, with central and local government recovery packages continuously emerging to support small and medium sized enterprises, the buying public is being urged to use collective choice to support local business.

This message is particularly critical for the accommodation and food services sector with the sector’s largest contributor, foreign tourism, predicted to take a huge hit this year.

Economic research company Infometrics predicts foreign tourism in New Zealand to drop by 91% in 2020 because of COVID-19 related border restrictions. Domestic tourism will also see a 21% decline as New Zealand will see a wave of job losses, which will impact on people’s expendable income and ability to take paid holiday leave.

In a recent presentation on economic foresights for Māori and the economy, senior economist Rob Heyes says that nationally up to 40,000 Māori could lose their jobs between 2020 and 2022.

For Māori employed in the accommodation and food services sector, the outlook is particularly grim. “We’re forecasting almost 7000 Māori losing their jobs in accommodation and food services over the next couple of years,” he says.

He adds that wherever there is an economic recession, Māori tend to experience job losses to a greater degree than non-Māori.

“We put that down to the fact that Māori tend to be younger and have lower skilled jobs than non-Māori, and it’s those types of jobs that tend to be cut first. In accommodation and food services, we think that Māori employment will decline by about 30% over the next couple of years, whereas for non-Māori it’s probably closer to about 27%,” he says.

Northland Regional Council economist Darryl Jones says that the total number of businesses in Northland dropped by 7% between 2009 – 2013 as a result of the GFC induced recession.

“In terms of the COVID-19 crisis, it is projected that the number of people employed in Northland will fall by 10%, or around 7500 people, between 2020 and 2022,” he says.

In addition to the decline in accommodation and food services, he says some of the highest impacts in Northland will be felt in construction, retailing and road transport.

He adds that supporting the Go Local! Campaign - launched by NZME across its regional media as a public call to action to support local businesses – is one way that the buying public can contribute to the ongoing local economic recovery.

For Facebook page Tautoko - Te Tai Tokerau administrator and social designer Kaye-Maree Dunn, supporting local economies to recover in Northland starts with supporting Māori businesses to survive.

“Tautoko is a national movement led out by Rawiri Bhana who wanted to ensure that whānau would be able to buy Māori, spend Māori and support Māori enterprise, especially during COVID-19 and beyond as we prepare for being hit with a considerable recession,” she says.

The page has grown to almost 4,500 members who have come together to celebrate what Māori are known for doing best - being innovative and creative seeking out solutions to difficult situations.

“I think Māori businesses in this space will need to adapt to change and see if they have the ability to continue to trade or if they have to make a decision to wind up as they will need capital to get through. If they can pivot, then the focus is going to be on the local domestic market, hyper local approach. How can affordable packages be developed to attract local tourism and most importantly, how can we extend beyond the Māori economy - Māori buying Māori - and moving to a place where New Zealand is buying Māori?” she says.

For North Drift manager Amy Tepania, business for her Ahipara-based café reopened in Level 2. The predominantly Māori staff of seven have survived since alert Level 4 lockdown by accessing the government 12-week wage subsidy, which has since been extended from June 10 for a further eight weeks.

She says she also picked up additional income from registering on SOS Business at - an online, non-for-profit initiative that was set up to support small businesses in New Zealand by enabling customers to purchase vouchers or make donations to cafes all over New Zealand. The website has since partnered with Anchor to offer promotional incentives.

“I registered my business on there during Level 4 and we did pretty good for not having a café open. We sold quite a few vouchers,” she says.

She has used the time in lockdown to re-evaluate the direction her seaside café is taking and concentrating on building up the café's presence on social marketing platforms. Doing business differently for her has meant working with a graphic designer to change the café's branding and exploring how the café could operate digitally.

“But we have to be mindful that we’ve got some old school people here in Ahipara that don’t use social media so we have to make sure that we’re going to continue getting them coming through the door during Level Two, and when we move down to Level One,” she says.

The weeks of closure have caused her re-evaluate the café's position as the only eatery that sells café style food in Ahipara. She says this has reinforced its advantage in the community and future without the flow of foreign tourists coming through the village.

“I need to keep the little café open because it’s in a great spot. Cafes should be looked as a place to go to for a treat. Some people go ‘oh my gosh, it’s so expensive’ but you’re not eating there every day. It’s a hub. We have a group of ladies come in and they change the whole café around but it doesn’t bother me because they are happy. They’re my regulars and I really value them,” she says.

Opening for Level 2 saw North Drift launch a new menu and offer up new promotions. Amy is also exploring the feasibility of offering other options, such as offering gourmet pies and a takeaway family meal service for whānau who want the convenience of eating hearty, nutritious food without having to cook it.

Meanwhile, Kaye-Maree says the Tautoko - Te Tai Tokerau page is continuously sharing stories of inspirational Māori social enterprise and community development initiatives in Te Tai Tokerau, knowledge about the maramataka Māori and how that affects movements, and information on business and community opportunities to help kick start local economies.

The latest information includes the TSB Good Stuff grant, free apprenticeship training with NorthTec and other support opportunities being offered by 0800POUTAMA, Northland Inc and Muriwhenua Business Support.

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