Developing a "cutting edge" manuka honey industry, enhancing IT and entrepreneurship opportunities, and promoting cultural tourism, are all key opportunities for a "booming" Tairawhiti Maori economy, based on a report launched this week.
The 115-page Tairawhiti Maori Economic Development Report was launched alongside the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan before a gathering of government ministers, regional leaders and the public.
A group of 11 iwi and Maori businesses mandated the report in September 2015 to respond to economic issues raised at a hui and a key question from Victor Walker (Te Aitanga a Hauiti) - "What would a booming Tairawhiti economy look like in 2040?"
It was prepared for Kimihia he Oranga (KHO), a Tairawhiti collective of businesses, iwi, hapu, communities and government agencies.
"While the report is uniquely Tairawhiti Maori, it is a valuable resource to inform employers, business owners and anybody working with Maori," Kimihia he Oranga chairwoman Tina Karaitiana said.
It covers a wide region, from Potikirua in the north to Mohaka River in the south.
With the Tairawhiti Maori population growing, and fiscal opportunities improving - especially through Treaty settlements - Tairawhiti Maori are in a position of strength "never experienced in post-colonial history".
In 2015, 51 percent of the population of 55,580 identified as Maori, a share expected to grow.
Lower educational results
Maori, however, had lower educational outcomes than non-Maori, a higher unemployment rate and lower household incomes.
The report highlights opportunities to turn that around, including developing Maori land, of which there is 228,000 hectares (28 percent of the district), to embrace the manuka industry.
Only 25 percent of an estimated $60 million potential is being captured.
Collectives, such as Ngati Porou Miere, are seen as essential for the necessary investment in hives, extraction, processing, manufacturing and branding to develop the industry.
Another example of adding value to land use is wood processing.
Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou is looking at developing a facility on the Coast, which could result in more than 150 jobs and earn $100m a year.
Other opportunities include enhancing IT, entrepreneurship and cultural tourism, especially as Tairawhiti has the highest percentage of Maori-speaking people in the country.
The report highlights the Maori role as kaitiaki, their inter-generational responsibilities, and connectedness to culture and land as central to economic development.
Maori development minister Te Ururoa Flavell said he was pleased to see the collaborative efforts between iwi, Maori trusts and collective land owners, businesses and local and central government in finalising the plans.
"It is one of the best reports I have seen for Maori economic development. Congratulations, what an awesome job."
The report would work with the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan, to increase incomes and investment across the East Coast region.
"Maori were heavily involved in the development of both plans, are on the governance group and are well-represented in areas such as tourism, forestry, farming, and manuka honey.
"Together, these plans will help tangata whenua realise their economic aspirations, plan for future leaders from among today's rangatahi, and enable better utilisation of the Maori asset base along the coast.
"The opportunity and challenge is to support Maori on the Coast to build their enterprise capacity and to move into high-tech areas, to tap into the resilience and the independent spirit of the Coast."
He announced support through Te Puni Kokiri for more than $170,000 to support apiculture and assist landowners to embrace the manuka industry, up to $50,000 to lift whanau enterprise capacity, $100,000 to support rural whanau to gain driver licences, and $100,000 to enhance Maori tourism.
The recent Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival in Hastings, which attracted about 50,000 people, showed the benefit of kaupapa Maori and the economic benefits it can bring to New Zealand.
"There is an undeniable benefit," Mr Flavell said.
While there were opportunities, he acknowledged the challenges Maori faced. He referred to a comment Te Rangi Hiroa made to Sir Apirana Ngata in 1934.
"He spoke then about Maori pressures and ability to survive in this world.
"Today, I want to see our tamariki free from poverty, rangatahi free from suicide, educated and qualified, all Maori adults who are capable to be in paid work, all living in safe and healthy homes, not in prison, but most of all, to see my people survive."