Whanganui's lower river Tupoho hapu are making moves toward running businesses and providing jobs for their people.
The move is driven by Te Runanga o Tupoho (a council of lower river Maori that meets six-weekly) and its administrative arm, Tupoho Whanau Trust.
Trust chairman Ken Mair said its business entity was Tupoho Investments. That company was formed in 2006, with himself, Tamara Smith and Sandi Ranginui as directors.
He said he had always been interested in seeing development in the four "e"s - environment, education, employment and economic development.
Tupoho's focus on economic development had lagged behind dealing with social needs and treaty settlements, and building cultural capacity in things like te reo Maori (Maori language). Mr Mair said there were issues around economic capacity and capability. More work was needed, but it was slowly coming together.
Tupoho Investments now has a small lawnmowing business and a small cafe business - the cafe based in the Tupoho Community Complex, where there was a former polytech cafe.
"They're very small and just starting. We are trying to build those up."
The trust's initiatives to use three properties either landbanked or heading toward being land-banked are affecting a lot more people.
Tupoho Whanau Trust got a licence to occupy the former Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic complex in March last year, and there were now 12 tenants using the buildings and 4.2ha site. The next to move in will be Tupoho's social services arm, next year.
The complex has Wanganui Glass School, most of Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority, the Men's Shed, Whanganui UCOL's fine arts students, Maori wardens, the Aotea district Kohanga Reo office, Awa FM radio station, Tupoho Whanau Trust and Rangahaua Marae, and the office for Whanganui's land claim settlement.
"We are very pleased with the groups that we've got in here."
The rents they paid were covering costs, and saved money on repairing the vandalism that was happening when the complex was empty.
"It seems, from our point of view, negligent that we should leave properties empty when we could be utilising them for the benefit of us as a people and the community as a whole," Mr Mair said.
The Inspire Whangaui Health & Fitness Centre, in St Hill St, is another property in the landbank. It is now managed by a board comprised half of Tupoho Whanau Trust members and half of people from Sport Wanganui. Reopening the gym created about six jobs, Mr Mair said.
The next property to come back into use will be the former city prison site in the Maria Place extension. Next year it becomes Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre. It will be run by two people from Wanganui District Council, two people from Tupoho and one community representative.
The place will create jobs, though those details still have to be worked out.
It's modelled on a community business in Kaitaia community that employs more than 40 people. The land claims for the large Whanganui area are due to be negotiated in 2014.
"We hope it's sooner rather than later. We've been waiting a hell of a long time."
When the claim is settled, Whanganui Maori will have 48 properties available.