More than 100 of the best minds in Maori business are coming together to take part in a national conference in Tauranga this year.
Te Hekenga III is the third instalment of the National Maori Business Networks and Maori Enterprises Conference, which will host up to 200 people, including Minister for Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones.
Mana Taiao Events is hosting the biennial event in association with Tauranga Maori Business Network, which initially came up with the idea for the gathering in 2012.
MC Buddy Mikaere said the gathering would provide a forum for Maori small to medium enterprises (SME), and those wishing to engage with them, plus a workshop environment where attendees can receive expert advice and hear from success stories.
"It's also a great networking opportunity," Mikaere said.
There will be 17 speakers featuring at the two-day conference, including business and social entrepreneur Tenby Powell, musician and business owner Brad Kora, Kiwi Digital chief executive Steven Renata and business strategist, coach and consultant Kim Hill.
Ian Taylor from Animation Research - the brains behind the America's Cup animation - and John Barrett who founded Kapiti Island Nature Tours catering to the cruise ship market also feature.
"Our wish is that through these conferences we can market Tauranga as a place where Maori business and businesses do well."
Mikaere said Tauranga iwi were moving into the final phase of their Treaty of Waitangi settlements and needed to be looking at other opportunities for investment.
"The majority of businesses in New Zealand fall into the broad SME category, yet that is the sector of the economy where Maori are noticeably absent," Mikaere said.
"It is important for the Tauranga community to start looking at these kinds of initiatives or alternative business ideas if we are to become full participants in the Tauranga economy rather than just occasional bit players."
Mikaere said previous success stories include Kaimai Honey, Bird Wines and Platform Advertising.
Steve Bird, of Bird Wines, said the conference was an invaluable networking event for businesses like his.
Some businesses were individually too small to take advantage of government incentives - especially if they were looking export. But if they worked together they could present themselves to the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for funding and other opportunities, he said.
Bird is part of a Maori Wine Makers' Collective, a group which formed as a direct result of previous conferences.
The two-day conference will be held on February 15 and 16 at Trinity Wharf, Dive Cres, Tauranga. More information can be found at www.tehekenga.co.nz