Accelerate - March 2014

Matauranga Māori key to growing industry

Māori cultural knowledge is a key component in the current focus on lifting the performance and productivity of the Māori asset base to grow New Zealand’s GDP.

Federation of Māori Authorities Chairman Traci Houpapa says that Mātauranga Māori – that is, Māori cultural knowledge of land and natural resource management – is a valuable contributor to the development of New Zealand innovation, citing the strengthening trade and export focus on the global Asian market.

“To be successful in the long term, we must use Māori culture, which resonates with Asian markets, to our advantage,” says the Hamilton-based director and economic advisor.

“People want more than marketing spin. They want to hear the story of our produce, about where it was grown, how and by whom. Māori branding is unique to New Zealand, and an important part of our market-to-market engagement.”

Māori and iwi authorities are significant primary sector asset holders, controlling almost 40% of the country’s total fish quota, 40% of forestry, around 15% of agribusiness, including 10% of national milk solids production and a significant kiwifruit footprint.

Māori primary sector producers already supply Asia, including countries such as India, Taiwan, Thailand and others.

“Caring for our land and natural resources has a direct benefit for our people, our communities and our country. Everyone wins,” says Houpapa.

The Federation is focusing on building an “A-team”, she says, bringing the best people and skills to the table “so that we all benefit”. This team includes Callaghan Innovation and other industry partners.

“Innovation, science and technology are critical to the commitment that Māori authorities and businesses have to improving performance and productivity.

“New Zealand will enjoy better market success when we work together across industry in partnership with world-class science.”

The Federation is working on a number of initiatives in the dairy, red meat, forestry and horticulture sectors that will help its members to gain better returns.

Houpapa says that managing expectations is a critical factor in such projects.

“You can have the best plans in the world, but if you don’t have the right people in the right places, you will struggle,” she says. “Projects will fail – when they do, fail fast, learn and move on.”

Houpapa says the focus on Māori economic development is an important marker in the growth and maturity of New Zealand as a nation, and is allied to the emergence of the Aotearoa New Zealand Inc. story.

“In 10 years’ time we expect that the Aotearoa New Zealand Inc story will be part of our national psyche, and that Mātauranga Māori will be valued alongside commercial considerations in trade and export.

“As a country, we’re more comfortable in our own cultural skin.”

Updated: 7 September 2015