Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Hunt on for Maori business leaders for prestigious Auckland University awards

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Outstanding Maori Business Leader award winner Jason Witehira (third from left) with (from left) Cliff Curtis, Dean Witehira and Hemi Rolleston. Photo/supplied
Outstanding Maori Business Leader award winner Jason Witehira (third from left) with (from left) Cliff Curtis, Dean Witehira and Hemi Rolleston. Photo/supplied

Top Te Arawa businesses and business leaders have just a few days to get their nominations in for this year's prestigious University of Auckland Aotearoa Maori Business Leaders Awards.

The awards, hosted by the Business School, recognise and celebrate outstanding Maori excellence and success in business. They are widely regarded as the nation's premier Maori Business awards.

Entries close on Friday. Past individual winners include Ngarimu Blair, Jamie Tuuta, Miriana Stephens, Chris Mace, Rob McLeod, Mavis Mullins, Jason Witehira, Sir Ralph Norris, Kingi Smiler and Ian Taylor.

Previous organisation award winners include Ngai Tahu Holdings, Tainui Group Holdings, Tuaropaki Trust and Wakatu.

"This is an occasion to recognise the massive contributions made by Maori business leaders - individuals and organisations - to a strong and growing economy that is grounded in Maori worldviews," said Associate Professor Chellie Spiller, Business School Associate Dean, Maori and Pacific.

"The awards also highlight inspiring role models for rangatahi."

Karen Vercoe was last year's recipient of the Dame Mira Szaszy Maori Alumni Award.

She said the recognition it generated, both personally and for her company, went beyond her expectations.

"I received numerous client calls, I was contacted for commercial and not for profit boards, I have been asked to mentor start-up Maori entrepreneurs but more importantly the positive role model effect on my whanau has been wonderful."

Ms Vercoe is founder and principal of KTV Consulting Ltd, which has consulted to government agencies and uses Results-Based Accountability, a data-driven discipline designed to benefit people and communities.

"These awards allow small Maori business owners like myself the opportunity to be recognised for our hard work and our persistence, to pursue our dreams and goals of business ownership and entrepreneurialism."

Ngai Tahu Holdings was last year's winner of the Outstanding Maori Business Leadership award.

"Winning the award was both humbling and rewarding for us," said Ngai Tahu Holdings chief executive Mike Sang.

"It's humbling because we feel we have so much more to achieve, and it's rewarding because the award recognises the efforts of many people within the business and the iwi, and the progress we have made together to be a successful and values-led part of the Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu group."

The Maori economy is growing faster than the wider New Zealand economy. It ballooned from an estimated asset base of $9.4 billion in 2001 to $40 billion in 2015, with some analysts forecasting it could top $100 billion in the next few years.

Iwi controlled post-settlement assets alone are now worth $6 billion, with that figure predicted to double in a decade or so.

The award categories are: Outstanding Maori Business Leader, Maori Women Business Leader, Young Maori Business Leader (aged under 40), Dame Mira Szaszy Maori Alumni, and Maori Entrepreneurial Leader (new this year), and a category for organisations: Outstanding Maori Business Leadership.

Dr Spiller said they encouraged nominations and were excited by the new names that were coming to their attention this year.

"It's shaping up to be a phenomenal event."

Nominations close on Friday and winners will be announced at a dinner in Auckland on May 12.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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