New Year Honours: Sir Mark Solomon

By James Ihaka

Sir Mark Solomon, Ngai Tahi visionary, 'blown away' by the recognition. Photo / Getty Images
Sir Mark Solomon, Ngai Tahi visionary, 'blown away' by the recognition. Photo / Getty Images

Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to Maori and business.

Sir Mark Solomon thinks his 30-year vision of seeing his people thriving in gainful employment as vibrant, proactive members of their communities is well on track.

"Definitely," he said.

"We started the journey and we have concentrated since settlement in strengthening our papatipu runanga [constituent areas] ... We are looking at introducing a tribal economy and how we get our people into business," said Sir Mark from his Oaro family home, south of Kaikoura.

The kaiwhakahaere [chairman] of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu has become a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori and business and admits to being "blown away" by the recognition.

"I wasn't expecting this, not in any way, shape or form," he said.

"I am only getting it because of my work with Ngai Tahu and that is who it is for - I certainly wouldn't have got it if I was still working in the foundry."

After more than 25 years working in the metals industry, Sir Mark was elected chairman of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu in 1998.

His first task was to sign off his iwi's $170 million Treaty settlement with the Crown. During his tenure, Ngai Tahu's commercial asset base has grown more than 400 per cent.

And it is now worth $809 million, with significant investments in the property, fisheries and tourism sectors.

The successes of the iwi's commercial arm are often touted but Sir Mark says he is particularly proud of the tribe's achievements in education and encouraging his people to join the iwi's saving scheme, which pays out distributions from the iwi's holding company and pays up to $200 annually on a minimum savings deposit of $50.

"I think it has been a real highlight of what we have done.

"I think we have 53 per cent of all our kids in there as regular savers, which is awesome."

- NZ Herald

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