Ngati Kahungunu Treaty of Waitangi settlements will soon total nearly half a billion dollars and the iwi is planning to fan entrepreneurial flames through Ohanga o Takitumu, an economic campaign for social change through growing businesses and better utilising Maori assets.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said economic development was an integral part of iwi culture and the reason for first visiting the region.

"Trading was part of our tikanga as we zigzagged through the Pacific and landed here," he said.

Ohanga o Takitimu's aim was to again normalise talk about business and economic development "everywhere our people congregate".

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It is the regional arm of Crown Maori Economic Growth Partnership.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell told a hui at Napier Sailing Club yesterday the Partnership was formed "on the back of" the Maori Party's limited agreement to support the National Government after the last election.

"In terms of cash, in terms of building capability and capacity, it is really exciting where we are going and what is available," said Taria Tahana, partnership co-ordinator for Te Puni Kokiri, which is implementing the programme with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The St Joseph's Maori Girls' College old girl said the programme was an enabler "to help those who are already helping themselves" and identify ways to drive further development.

The programme aimed to lift workforce skills, increase financial literacy and seek talks on realising resources.

She said culture came first and could open doors, help build relationships "and after that comes the bizzo and doing deals".

"Economic development is about flax roots - our people on the ground - and empowering them to do the things that they want to do. That will ultimately enable us to take our opportunities, our services and resources to the rest of the world," she said.

"How do we get more jobs for our people, how do we use our land resources and how do we unlock water - one of the big things we have seen is if we want to do developments we don't have water."

Mr Tomoana said the iwi was still "reeling" from thousands of job losses in the 1980s, when major employers of Maori such as meat works closed down.

He said a phrase the older generation commonly used in times of adversity was also the name of the programme - He Kai Kei Aku Ringa.

"No matter how hard it gets, you have the ability with your own hands to make a difference.

"We have the resilience and power of our own hands to take the future by the scruff and give it a good shake."

Shayne Walker, representative of Treaty Settlement group Te Kei oTakitimu and general manager of Maungaharuru-Tangitu Trust, said good businesses gave social surety.

"Let us not be replaced by robots, let us own the robots," he said.