New Zealand's top Māori business leaders have been celebrated at the 2018 University of Auckland Aotearoa Māori Business Leaders Awards ceremony tonight.

Whale Watch Kaikōura general manager Kauahi Ngapora collected the Outstanding Māori Business Leaders Award at the sold-out awards dinner.

Kendall Flutey was recognised for the creation of online banking platform Banqer, taking out the Young Māori Business Leader Award.

Banqer is a financial literacy tool that teaches concepts of saving, investing, borrowing and purchasing by turning the classroom into a virtual economy.


The platform is currently used by 63,000 students in New Zealand and Australia.

Flutey said the idea was born from a conversation with her brother in 2015 about what he'd just learnt in school about money.

"I really couldn't believe the conversations I was having with him," Flutey said.

"It was obvious that these lessons had changed the trajectory of his life."

From there, Flutey says she teamed up with his teacher and a few helpers to make an online version of the lessons.

"At first the focus was just one classroom, but soon we realised the impact Banqer was having on the students. Seeing that first-hand, and the effects on my brother, was a real driver and still drives me today," Flutey said.

Banqer took off after Flutey partnered with Kiwibank, and the platform is now accessible to more than 40 per cent of primary and intermediate schools.

A te reo version of the platform is being developed, which Flutey says input is welcome from anyone passionate about financial literacy in tamariki (young).


"I love that we genuinely prioritise purpose alongside profit, making decisions that traditional business wouldn't - we're thinking about the people and the long-term social change," Flutey said.

Prior to winning the award, Flutey said she was "extremely honoured and humbled" to be recognised by the award.

Among the impressive award winners was Maruhaeremuri Nihoniho, who is the designer of a video game to help youth combat depression.

Carla Houkamau, associate professor and associate dean, Māori and Pacific at the Business School, commended the winners for their tremendous contributions to their iwi and communities.

"We are proud to host these awards and celebrate the tremendous contributions our recipients make to their iwi and communities. The awards not only raise awareness of Maori business success, they also help inspire our own students to take their place in a growing economy grounded in Māori worldviews," she said.

The winners:

Outstanding Māori Business Leaders Award:

Kauahi Ngapora (Whale Watch Kaikōura GM)

Young Māori Business Leader Award:

Kendall Flutey (Banqer co-founder and CEO)

Māori Woman Business Leader Award:

Rachel Taulelei (Kono CEO)

Māori Governance Award:

Whaimutu Dewes (Chairman of Moana New Zealand and Sealord Group, and a number of other governance roles)

Māori Entrepreneurial Leader Award:

Maruhaeremuri Nihoniho (Metia Interactive founder and MD)

Outstanding Māori Business Leadership Award (for organisations):

Iwi Collective Partnership