New Zealand's only iwi-run savings scheme has ticked over $50 million and has signed on more than 20,000 members to save for their education, a home or retirement.

Ngai Tahu's Whai Rawa savings scheme was launched in 2006 as a way to help give the money from the iwi's business investments back to its people.

South Island-based Ngai Tahu has significant tourism and seafood interests including Queenstown's Shotover Jet and Rotorua's Rainbow and Fairy Springs and Agrodome attractions.

Last year it paid out a distribution of $3.5m to savers in Whai Rawa as well as matching the savings of child members at a rate of four to one and adult savers at a rate of one to one up to $200 a year.


David Tikao, programme manager of Whai Rawa said around 22,000 of the iwi's 55,000 registered people were in the savings scheme and take up was particularly strong for children.

Over the 10 years the scheme has paid out more than $5m to help savers pay towards a tertiary education, house or retirement.

Those who want to take their money out for retirement can do so from 55, unlike KiwiSaver where savers must wait until the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation, currently set at 65.

Tikao said many of the Whai Rawa members were also in KiwiSaver which meant they could also benefit from the Government's annual contribution of 50c for every member dollar saved up to $1042.

One of thosewho has benefited from the scheme is Auckland-based Ngai Tahu descendant Ryan Bradley. He was the first person to sign up to the scheme in 2006 was he was 22.

"Dad just thought it was a no- brainer to sign us up."

Bradley was a student at Otago University at the time and said he could only afford to put in $10 a week and on the weeks he couldn't afford it his dad helped him out.

"Five years later I had contributed about $2500 and with the matched savings it was up to $4200. which I thought was great when I had put in just over $2000."


Bradley and his wife were able to use the money to buy a house in Hamilton and have recently used the equity in their Hamilton property to buy into the Auckland housing market.

"It has opened the doors up in Auckland for us," he said.

Bradley, who had never saved before joining Whai Rawa, said it had opened up his eyes to the options that savings could give people.

The scheme also helped connect him to his iwi despite not living near the marae.

"It feels like we have got an investment in all the thing that the iwi is invested in.

The scheme is only open to registered Ngai Tahu iwi members.

Iwi Savers

• Ngai Tahu's $50 million scheme has 20,000 members

• It has paid $5m to help savers pay for education, houses or retirement