Innovation, exports and people key to Māori business
Hon Dr Pita Sharples
Minister of Maori Affairs
3 November 2012
Innovation, exports and people key to Māori
Innovation, exports and people are key to the future and the history of the Māori economy, Māori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples told participants at this weekend’s Federation of Māori Authorities’ AGM in Taupō.
“Before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed Māori entrepreneurs were leading New Zealand’s first overseas trade missions, they were helping to establish our sheep industry and exporting produce direct to Australia on their own ships,” said Dr Sharples.
“Nearly two centuries later Māori entrepreneurs are still leading overseas trade missions, we are key players in the agribusiness sector and developing new export markets particularly in Asia.”
Research commissioned by Te Puni Kōkiri two years ago found the Māori economy was worth nearly $37 billion and comprised mainly small to medium sized enterprises.
“Treaty settlements did not create the Māori economy. Māori collectively-owned farming businesses are arguably some of New Zealand’s oldest existing businesses,” said Dr Sharples.
“With many Māori businesses land-based, it’s critical to use science and research to boost returns on primary products.
“We need to become price setters – not just price takers. If we add value to our raw products we create jobs, optimise export value and, importantly, we diversify our national economy. Te Arawa FOMA’s pioneering agribusiness research is an example of this.”
“We need our children to see the world through the eyes of an innovator, an entrepreneur: to see the world as their ancestors did. Every Māori child, every whanau needs to join us on this journey.”
Next year marks the eightieth year of the Ahuwhenua Māori Farmer of the Year Competition.
“Back then New Zealand was in the grips of the Great Depression. Our export industry was on its knees, average farm incomes dropped below zero. Incredibly it was in this environment that Māori Affairs Minister Sir Apirana Ngata fought back, setting up land development schemes, travelling the country and launching this competition.”
Dr Sharples paid tribute to generations of Māori who not only helped establish New Zealand’s agribusiness industry: but who continue to play a major role in its future.
“In two thousand and twelve, Māori seek the right to take ownership of our own destiny, to determine our own economic and social wellbeing. We seek the right to uphold our own mana motuhake, to exercise our own rangatiratanga,” he said.