Te Tuma Paeroa (the "new Maori Trustee"), launched last month in Wellington as part of a rebranding exercise, is poised to play a key role in the progress of Maori business, holding just under 100,000 hectares of land spread over almost 2000 entities.
CEO Jamie Tuuta characterises the Maori economy as "a developing economy within a developed economy", undergoing a transformation within Maoridom itself, and in the way in which Maori business is perceived by wider New Zealand society. It is hoped that this will allow Maori businesses to lift a historically low return on assets, providing greater wealth for trusts and increasing benefits to landowners.
Tuuta acknowledges many of the problems that have led to weak performance in the economy remain beyond the control of Maori business. Just as in the wider New Zealand economy, Maori business can be periodically raised or felled by external climate, commodity, and currency shifts. But much of the problem is also structural and Te Tumu Paeroa has undergone a period of change and rebranding to address these issues.
Central to restructuring attempts have been efforts to more effectively utilise the Te Tuma Paeroa General Purposes Fund.
Tuuta says the fund will be used to "accelerate the rate of enterprise development and improve the returns for Maori landowners and the wider economy".
Attempts have been made to ensure the investment fund retains its value into the future, with the goal of creating a "truly intergenerational fund."
Tuuta is encouraged by the increasing diversification of Maori business. Specifically, Maori have demonstrated an aspiration to move from being "passive asset holders to more active managers of our land and assets".
This active management is evident in the rural sector, with the majority Maori-owned milk processing company Miraka looking beyond the farm gate in becoming more market-faced and value chain oriented. Driving the change has been an acceptance that human capital is the most important economic asset owned by Maori.
Te Tuma Paeroa has been putting some emphasis on this through working with others to continue to develop Maori talent at a governance and leadership level. An example is the Maori Primary Sector Bootcamp, providing opportunities for 30 senior Maori business leaders to attend Stanford University for a week, with the intention that those business leaders will be able to make a significant impression on the Maori economy upon their return. Tuuta is confident excellent leadership will mean that Maori are well placed, given the current asset base, to increase economic performance and growth.
At the recent Fielddays Tuuta joined a panel of six prominent people involved in Maori agribusiness including Traci Houpapa from the Federation of Maori Authorities; Kingi Smiler from Miraka; and Ben Dalton from the Ministry of Primary Industries Maori Primary Sector Partnerships branch to focus on how to lift the performance of Maori agribusiness.
"There is a discernable shift happening in the ownership and management of Maori freehold land," says MPI's outgoing Director General Wayne McNee. "Maori landowners are taking a more active approach to fully capitalise on huge gains possible by increasing the productivity and profitability of assets, and by making the most of opportunities to develop the value of its primary produce.
"Our estimates show this could generate another $1.1 billion in export revenue, which would make a real difference to Maori communities and the wider New Zealand economy."