The two-day Taniwha Dragon Economic Summit was hailed a success before lunch yesterday, achieving half its goal of $100 million worth of deals between Maori and Chinese companies.
Held at Clubs Hastings, the summit was sold out with 250 people attending, many in comfort thanks to 150 white inflatable couches.
The opening speaker, Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, said the summit was being held at a time when Treaty of Waitangi settlements were coming on-stream.
Large and small companies from both countries outlined successes and opportunities for growth.
The summit was instigated by Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc (NKII) chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, to complement the iwi's hosting of national kapa haka festival Te Matatini later this week.
He described the conference as a "speed dating" opportunity for companies, with conference staff on hand to make introductions in breakout rooms.
"They don't have to hand over a cheque or credit card yet, it is just to enthuse people to start talking," Mr Tomoana said.
Looking to talk was Zhou Jinwang of Shanghai Fisheries, who said its fleet of 80 ships could not meet Chinese demand. He said international joint ventures, efficient processing and widening the consumer palate was the sustainable way forward.
Summit co-host is Lei Garden's chairman Chan, who employs 2500 people in his food businesses which include 26 restaurants with Michelin-star ratings. He is targeting more New Zealand produce for a large chain of bistros. He said New Zealand was a world leader in food safety thanks to "the ideal combination of regulatory environment and natural resources".
Alibaba Group director of business development Australia and New Zealand John O'Loghlen said the Maori story and its links with Chinese culture "is something many businesses would die to have".
Alibaba accounts for more than half of Chinese e-commerce and Mr O'Loghlen said Australia and New Zealand goods ranked fourth on its China retail platform "which is astounding" considering the combined population of the countries.
"None of our European markets have that pull with Chinese consumers."
He said the Chinese market was moving away from commodity items towards branded products "where you need to be able to tell your story".
"This is a very, very competitive marketplace, so be sure when you go to China your product is not just best in class in New Zealand, but best in class in the world."
Prime Minister Bill English was due to speak at the conference dinner last night at Craggy Range Winery, where more deals were expected to be announced.
NKKI chief executive Dr Adele Whyte said some of the deals announced so far were new and others were already in the pipeline "but it took the summit for people to make the commitment, through meeting in person and moving forward".
Today has speakers from more than 20 organisations.