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Dr Pita Sharples Speech: Te Whare Wananga

Te Whare Wananga o Te Tauihu o te Waka a Maui

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology

Wednesday 15 November 2006; 12.45pm

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Meeting our Responsibilities: Whanau in Business

I was impressed to learn the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology is reviewing the charter you operate by, with a particular focus on meeting the responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

And I want to really congratulate you as an Institute for your commitment, your passion and your courage in honouring these responsibilities.

As I understand it, the thinking is that the principles would be redefined as responsibilities instead of obligations.

I wanted to say, first off, how pleased I was that ‘redefinition’ as interpreted by this Institute isn’t a code word for deletion or extinguishment.

In a context where the Labour Government is removing the Treaty from the school curriculum; and supporting NZ First’s proposal to cut all Treaty obligations out of the statues, it takes great vision to continue to believe in nationhood, and understanding the responsibilities that the journey towards nationhood requires.

The notion of responsibilities rather than obligations is also an interesting one. To me, it implies a more active presence, a duty to perform, accountability is valued, rather than a symbolic commitment. We actually expect something to happen.

And that ‘something’ – is clearly being defined at this institute as having strong relevance to working with Maori businesses.

I am informed that in the process of reviewing your charter, you have identified Maori development organisations as key economic drivers in the region.

I want to focus, today, then on how we can meet our responsibilities in the context of Maori business development.

For a start can I say how rich you are for choice in this rohe in working with Maori development organisations as key economic drivers in the region.

No doubt you will have a strong relationship already with Ko te Poumanawa Oranga Ltd, a Maori Development Organisation which represents a large number of Iwi and Maori organisations across the top of the South Island.

Poumanawa Oranga works alongside Maori health, social services and wellbeing service providers in the Marlborough Nelson and Tasman region to provide a range of services which are essential to the Genuine Progress of the region.

But there’s also,

Maataa Waka Enterprises Ltd;

Te Awhina Marae;

Te Kahui Hauora O Ngati Koata Trust;

Ngati Rarua Iwi Trust;

Te Maiawhitia o Ngai Tahu Whanau Trust;

Te Rapuora representing Ngati Apa, Te Atiawa, Ngati Kuia and Ngati Toa; alongside the Maori Women’s Welfare League

And of course Wakatu Incorporation, the business arm of local iwi, a major landowner involved in horticulture, winemaking, forestry, dairy and seafoods.

If I was to do a critical inventory on each of these providers the key theme would be ‘it’s about whanau’ – Maori business success is a family affair.

I want, today, then to really focus on this issue of whanau involvement in business as being the key determinant for success.

New Zealand is renown for employing our nearest and dearest in the family business. Grant Thornton New Zealand, an accounting firm, estimate that around 75% of micro - small to medium sized businesses - are family controlled or owner-managed.

Indeed, our economic heritage as a nation has been shaped by a few very influential families – the Todd family, Fletcher family, the Talijancich family (more commonly referred to as the Talley family of Talley’s fisheries fame); Fishers of Fisher Meats; Gough, Gough and Hamer are all fine examples of prosperous and innovative family businesses. New Zealand’s largest real estate company, Barfoot and Thompson, is still controlled by a family company; while the Nightingale family (Resene paints) and the Turner family (Sleepyhead beds) are also into their third generation of a family business.

For Maori, the opportunity of bringing together and strengthening current generations of whanau, as well as investing in the future of our tamariki, is best realised in Maori business development.

But in addition to the intrinsic value of working with whanau, Maori also have a proud history of innovation and risk-taking, which has been magical in the journey of Maori economic advancement.

Tangata whenua have an extraordinary history of entrepreneurship, negotiating national and international trading ventures, owning farms, flour mills and sailing vessels; felling timber; harvesting whales; growing and trading crops. Indeed in 1831, the total exports reported to and from Sydney by Maori totalled £34000; roughly equivalent to $75 million in the 1998 New Zealand economy.

175 years later, Maori are recognised as one of the world's most entrepreneurial populations. The largest-ever survey of indigenous entrepreneurship, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, confirms that Maori are the world’s third most entrepreneurial people after Thailand and Venezuela.

Our enduring affection for making the most of the opportunity, combined with the involvement and loyalty of family members, comes together to achieve record success in Maori starting up a new business. About 83% of Maori entrepreneurs are opportunity entrepreneurs, taking advantage of the unique circumstances of the moment.

One of our most famous whanau enterprises is the Harley riding Tamaki brothers, who run 12 Tamaki Tour coaches; their tour circuit including of course, a compulsory stop at their own venture, the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua. Their family formula has led to a business employing 120 people, turning over $10 million a year, drawing crowds of over 160,000 per year.

Their business started with hardly a hiss and a roar. The elder of the brothers, Mike, was a bus driver, and went to the bank for a loan to buy his own bus. The application was turned down, and so Mike promptly withdrew his life savings, about $5, and then persuaded his younger bro, Doug, to sell his Harley to finance their first bus.

The business is now owned by the two brothers and their wives, Karen and Kate; with the expertise and advice around protocols and cultural excellence, coming from their uncle.

In my electorate, a family business that has been picking up the awards is Mete Construction, a Kaitaia whanau working in construction in Auckland. A young 38 year old Mum organises her father, two of her brothers and an uncle – working on structures as varied as the gas works to town houses. Mete Construction was recently named as one of the finalists in the Westpac Manukau Business Excellence Awards.

Or we can Go Bush between Taumarunui and Turangi with brothers, Danny, Kelvin and Rocky Hemopo, who have set themselves up as professional guides, whether on 4WD, horse treks, canoeing, guided campouts, goat and deer hunting or wilderness flyfishing. I liked what one of the bros had to say about their business. Danny said, “We’ve done this all our lives, it’s great to be able to make a living doing what we enjoy”.

These three brief case studies, exemplify the golden rule, making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."

And this is where the values inherited from earlier generations are so crucial in adding another dimension to successful Maori business practices.

Some of the key values implicit in te Ao Maori – the importance of whakapapa, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kotahitanga – are values which strengthen the basis of a Maori business.

The Auckland Business Review’s article on Entrepreneurship, in its Autumn 2006 edition, describes “successful family firms” as behaving in “flexible, innovative, adaptive and responsive ways and tend to have a more long term focus”.

The flexible, innovative and responsive features come through the practice of a kaupapa Maori environment. The taxi company I use in Auckland, Koru Cabs, follows practices which demonstrate to me why they will always be the first cab off the rank for me. Recently one of their workers experienced some difficulties, and was given three months leave with as much accumulated sick leave as possible, to invest in the wellbeing of both the man and his whanau. That’s manaakitanga, caring for the wellbeing of others.

The long term focus in Maori business takes the success of the founding generations and creates new business ideas for laying down a foundation for future generations – demonstrating the wisdom in recognising the wealth of whakapapa.

In my own neighbourhood, we have a supermarket owned by a Chinese family, who almost exclusively employ Chinese whether they are plumbers, accountants, importers – to support their initiatives. The focus is on ensuring their own whanau connections thrive, in a way which will also be mutually reinforcing.

In much the same way, I am very interested in the work being advanced by Whaimutu Dewes, in investigating whether up to $200m in resources can be pulled out of the Maori Trust Office, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, Poutama Trust and Te Puni Kokiri to initiate a venture capital fund to invest in the collective growth of the people.

The media reports suggest that the Poutama Trust has about $30m in equity; Crown Forestry Rental Trust is sitting on $85m in retained earners; and the Maori Trustee has about $88 million which may be available.

It’s an idea which builds on the innovative enterprise of Ngai Tai iwi, who demonstrated the benefits of pooling together collective resources under the auspices of the Torere Bank.

I believe the future of Maori businesses will be reliant on initiatives such as the Maori Development Corporation, to invest in our own self-determination.

One of the low points of the Entrepreneurial data, is the fact that although Maori are great starters-up of businesses, only 37% of Maori entrepreneurial start-ups survive three-and-a-half years compared to 62% in the general population.

The Maori Party has constantly presented the Government with this information, asking them to honour the international accolades by supporting sustainable development, but to no avail.

When it comes to Maori succeeding in business, therefore, we know we need to look to our own, to ensure our success is sustainable. We may need to joint venture with ourselves, support other Maori businesses in order to combine our resources and work for the collective wellbeing of the people.

In many ways, there are so many similarities between what we consider success factors of Maori businesses, and what we are trying to do with the Maori Party.

We truly believe that the survival of Maori as a people requires us to defend Maori rights, and advance Maori interests, for the benefit of the nation.

This is a 24/7; every issue, every Bill commitment.

At last count, we had delivered over 180 speeches in the debating chamber on legislation as varied as avian influenza to microchipping of dogs to coroners to a sexual abuse register to Manfeild Park. And in every Bill, we promote whakatauki, pepeha, and korero tawhito as illustrating Maori and universal truths; always taking the effort to provide a historical context to understand a contemporary issue.

While we see some parties only providing opportunities for their Maori MPs to speak on “typical Maori categories’ such as land, language and social policy; we resist any pressure to reduce our scope to a narrow agenda. We, the Maori Party, will speak on every issue, and demonstrate the same entrepreneurial initiative and flair that Maori are demonstrating in business, in sport, in arts and culture – and now of course politics.

For ultimately, this is where the true success of Maori business (and the Maori Party) will be found. We must be able to both start-up a new idea, and be supported to implement it.

Finally, I use the Maori Party model as the classic example of how do we build on the opportunity of innovation.

We truly believe that the business of survival is about not just establishing a party and standing up, each day, to assert the power and strength of Tangata whenua – but it is also about the long term endurance and sustainability.

That is why we have embarked this year on hui which go back to our constituency; encouraging every person we meet to become engaged with the legislative timetable, to know that their issues can become part of the Hansard debate, in helping to shape the future landscape of Aotearoa.

We hope that Maori in Business; and the Maori Party in the business of politics; will be able to capitalise on each other, and create our own destinies, that meet our responsibilities in advancing whanau, hapu and iwi.

Tena tatou.


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