Mahana, inspired by Witi Ihimaera's novel about shearers, Bulibasha.' />

Mavis Mullins is looking forward to seeing Lee Tamahori's new film, Mahana, inspired by Witi Ihimaera's novel about shearers, Bulibasha.

"I just loved that book so much that I bought six copies of it," said the 2015 Auckland University Maori Women's Business Leader of the Year and the kuia in a family which employs 50 to 60 shearers, annually shearing about two million sheep, mainly around the North Island's east coast.

READ MORE: Mana and money - Maori evolution

Mullins also has a family link to the cast - Regan Taylor is a nephew of her husband, Koro. Taylor plays Joshua Mahana in the movie starring Temuera Morrison and Nancy Brunning, depicting family rivalry and reconciliation, set against the backdrop of rural 1960s New Zealand.


"The story is one that's reasonably familiar to a lot of Maori families who grew up rural," Mullins said.

"I see a lot of my family in that, working together, the whole thing around a lot of staunchness. You carry the mana of your family. It has a powerful message - unless you are a team, you're buggered."

Mullins, who has also been a Landcorp director, is one of a rising number of Maori business leaders who also include Te Arawa Group Holdings' Colleen Neville, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu's Arihia Bennett, Waikato Tainui's Parekawhia McLean and Te Urunga B Inc's Traci Houpapa.

"There's some of us noisy ones. Then there's those who do stop you and you certainly listen to them and that's because they command that. I had a strong role model in my father who enabled and empowered me," she said of the late Punga Paewai. "Dad didn't see gender as a barrier. Koro reminds me of my father a bit."

Bennett, Te Runanga Ngai Tahu chief executive for the last three years, is running a business with $1.2 billion of assets.

"We're interested in continuing to be a direct, active investment company and to balance a portfolio as well as examining opportunities around partnering in the primary sectors: property, tourism, agriculture, equities," she says.

She was previously with health business He Oranga Pounamu and earlier was the South Island regional manager for Barnados New Zealand.

"I worked for Child, Youth and Family Services for about 20 years so my pathway has come from supporting people."

She has also worked in tourism for Ngai Tahu, the Sheraton hotel chain and Fiordland Travel.

"It's not the traditional background of a CEO. They took a leap of faith in me, although I have been brought up in the tribe," said the granddaughter of Te Hira Tainui of the 28th Maori Battalion.

On January 20, Mullins turned 60 and is celebrating the milestone throughout the year.

"We've got a trip planned to Laos in March, a Fiji wedding later on and taking a trip to the Caribbean."

As for the rising success of the Deloitte Top 10 Maori businesses, Mullins attributes that partly to communal ownership.

"That's where the multiple ownership stuff takes us to. Iwi going through a massive settlement have the opportunity to be almost like economic developments units in their own right and they have a very important role to play, not just for Maori Inc but for NZ Inc," she says.

"The coolest thing is Maori are finally being recognised as playing an important part in the economy.

"We've always been [seen as] the problem. But now we're part of the solution."

Mahana opens in New Zealand on Thursday, March 3.