Making the most of Bay of Plenty Maori assets

By Whare Akuhata

A new initiative will seek to improve the return on the $8.6 billion Maori asset base in the Bay of Plenty.

Bay of Connections, the Bay of Plenty economic development strategy, will produce an action-focused strategy to develop Maori assets in the region.

It has attracted $70,000 in funding from the Ministry of Maori Development, Te Puni Kokiri (TPK), for the strategy and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council will contribute a further $60,000, including $30,000 towards implementation of the strategy over the following year.

Bay of Connections is administered by the regional council in partnership with economic development agencies. Chairman John Cronin said the strategy would seek to better utilise Maori assets, calculated to be worth $8.6 billion.

Assets had been under-utilised and costs duplicated and there was a lack of good information, Mr Cronin said.

A Te Puni Kokiti (TPK) report on the region's Maori asset base looked at Maori land trusts and incorporations, iwi settlements and Maori businesses and found successes were "flying under the radar" and economic understanding was on the rise.

"There was an opportunity to take the findings of the TPK report and achieve tangible outcomes across the sub-regions and the region," Mr Cronin said.

"Given the significant asset value of over $8.6 billion in the Waiariki region, we are also a large player at a national level."

Eight of the 13 focus areas of Bay of Connections linked directly with the TPK report including energy, tertiary, labour and skills, Maori economic development, food and beverage, forestry, tourism and aquaculture.

"Working together across the region, with key partners such as Te Puni Kokiri, the Regional Council, economic development agencies and relevant industry players, will provide the greatest opportunity to further develop the Maori asset base of the Waiariki region," added Mr Cronin.

Two Maori business representatives, Dickie Farrar and Richard Jones, had been appointed to Bay of Connections to better identify and develop the engagement at a governance level and to better understand the region's Maori business interests, Mr Cronin said.

Mr Jones, a Poutama Business consultant, said the strategy would look further into the findings of the TPK report to gain further information about asset classes and activities, including finding out the number of primary-based activities and Maori small business activity.

"We need to know how many Maori dairy farms there are and how much milk solids they produce or how many kiwifruits orchards and how many trays of kiwifruit," Mr Jones said.

That information could lead to collaborations between trusts for ventures like Miraka Ltd, a milk processing plant north of Taupo, developed by a group of Maori land trusts.

Mrs Farrar, who is also the chief executive officer of the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board in Opotiki, said a large number of Maori trusts were under-achieving which could relate to their capacity around governance and business opportunities.

She said she knew of 10 trusts in Opotiki that needed support with governance, finance and how to work with bankers.



- Rotorua Daily Post

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