More needs to be done to make Northland a better place for the private sector to do business in order to increase incomes, the region's Chamber of Commerce boss says.
The latest Census figures released this week show that 43.6 per cent of Northlanders aged over 15 have an annual income of less than $20,000, compared to 38.2 per cent nationally, while for the region's Maori it's 52.1 per cent, compared to 46.3 per cent of all Maori in the country.
The Census, conducted in March 2013, also shows that 19.6 per cent of Northlanders aged over 15 have an annual income of more than $50,000, with 26.7 per cent nationally, while 13.1 per cent of Northland Maori had incomes over $50,000, compared to 18.1 per cent of Maori nationally.
The most common occupation for Northland Maori was labourer, the latest report said.
Northland Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Collins said the low level of incomes in the region was no surprise, given the profile of industry here.
"Some of the main employers in Northland are forestry, farming and tourism, which traditionally have low rates of pay. We have to work to change the profile of Northland businesses so we have more higher paying jobs," he said.
That could be done through industries such as information technology and adding value by processing of the region's wood instead of exporting it to be processed overseas.
"We need to look at where people are being employed, too. Some types of industry have low numbers of employees, but contribute more to GDP and have higher wages. About 95 per cent of Northland's businesses are small businesses that may only employ one or two people so we need to make it easier for those businesses to expand to employ more people as they grow," he said.
Mr Collins was particularly concerned at the low incomes of Maori, saying it was vital that more was done on Maori education in the North.
"We need to make sure that we have as many of Maori students as possible leave school with NCEA Level 2. You need Level 2 to have a real chance of getting good employment."
He said Treaty of Waitangi settlements for Northland iwi and hapu should also improve employment and development opportunities for Maori.