Maori are the ultimate innovators and should be the driving force behind geothermal energy in New Zealand says Dr Pita Sharples.
The Maori Party co-leader said New Zealand's tipuna (ancestors) were the ultimate scientists when they carried out the "greatest ocean migration in the history of the human race".
Dr Sharples was the keynote speaker at the Maori Geothermal Symposium, which began yesterday. It concludes this afternoon. The symposium, at Waiariki Institute of Technology, is focussing on the factors that drive investment and interest in geothermal energy developments, research and development and training.
"Our Maori economy represents generations of people, those who have passed on, those alive today and those not yet born. This is what long-term investment means for Maori.
"The Taniwha generation is also about innovation and science. It's in our DNA, we're living proof. Our tipuna were the ultimate scientists, they were more than engineers."
Dr Sharples spoke of growing economic trade with countries such as China and Chile, but he said that Maori should retain control of their assets.
"This is about doing the best to set things up, to do the best they can do. It's about establishing who we are. We're Maori, we can't be anything else.
"Our tikanga, our reo and all that is our ticket to relate to the world." He gave examples of a milk powder plant fuelled by geothermal power and owned by Maori as to how Maori can set up successful businesses for future generations.
He also mentioned a Berl report that predicts an extra $12.1 billion a year and 160,000 new jobs by 2061 if Maori invest successfully in science and innovation.
The symposium also had sessions run by Te Arawa Group Holdings, Contact Energy and BNZ yesterday. Today speakers will include Mike Allen from Geothermal New Zealand and Brendon Green from Mighty River Power.