Bank eyes $37b Maori economy

The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has created a new position - head of Maori business - as it eyes the near $37 billion worth of "Maori economy" assets following Treaty of Waitangi claim settlements.

Pierre Tohe, a senior corporate lawyer who has worked for the BNZ for eight years, has been appointed to the role.

The bank said Tohe's appointment boosts an already strong relationship between BNZ and Maori that has seen it provide funding and financial advice for Maori business ventures in industries such as agribusiness, commercial property and geothermal infrastructure.

In a statement Tohe himself said these were unprecedented times in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

"As Treaty of Waitangi claims are settled we're witnessing the largest transfer of wealth from the Crown balance sheet to Maori in our lifetime," he said.

"This huge economic shift will need support from the local banking industry and I firmly believe BNZ has the ability, desire and right attitude to provide this support," Tohe added.

Based on Te Puni Kokiri, or the Ministry of M?ori Development, figures the total asset base of the 2010 Maori economy was $36.9 billion, up $20 billion from 2005/6.

The creation of a head of Maori business role at the BNZ formalised "an ingrained culture of support" for Maori business at BNZ.

"I've been with the bank for nearly eight years now and I see a genuine desire to promote Maori business excellence. BNZ is involved in a number of initiatives and events such as the Ahuwhenua Trophy and Maori agribusiness scholarships at Massey University and this involvement, at all levels, is only going to grow," Tohe said.

Meanwhile Shelley Ruha, BNZ's head of institutional banking, said Maori business interests in New Zealand were poised for a period of substantial growth.

Ruha said Tohe has a Master of Laws degree and is fluent in te reo.


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