New Māori investment fund Te Pūia Tāpapa could end up investing in major infrastructure projects like Auckland light rail, says chairman Paul Majurey.

The $115 million fund is modelling itself on the NZ Super Fund and will hopefully further advance the progress iwi are making towards economic sovereignty, Majurey says.

It pulls together capital from 26 iwi and Māori entities located in the lower North Island, Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hauraki, Northland, Auckland, Te Tau Ihu (Nelson-Marlborough) and Wharekauri (Chatham Islands)

"This investment reflects the way we see the world – so that has important ethics like manaakitanga [respects and kindness] and kaitiakitanga [stewardship] in terms of how we see people and resources," he said. "The outlook is very long-term and intergenerational."


This wasn't going to a fund with a complex structure or high-risk investments, he said.

An artist's impression of light rail on Auckland's Queen St. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of light rail on Auckland's Queen St. Image / Supplied

It was the next logical step for iwi who now had substantial land and primary industry investments coming out of Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

"I've been asked several times, what are you like, are you a Merrill Lynch? We see we are more like a NZ Super Fund for Māori, obviously very different in scale, but in terms of timeframes involved, very high principles and best in class governance, that's what we've modelled ourselves on."

Over the past several years the NZ Super Fund had been moving to adopt these principles so it was viewed as a good role model, he said.

The Super Fund under had been supportive of Te Pūia Tāpapa development and had adopted it as a preferred partner which meant it could be brought into the mix on local infrastructure investment like Auckland Light Rail, Majurey said.

Structurally the fund was taking a highly transparent approach. It had a board of 10 directors - eight representatives and two independents.

Investments will be selected and managed by a committee of experienced investors, with the Investment Committee being chaired by Nick Ross, previously CEO and Chair of UBS NZ.

The hope was that this could be a model for a series of funds, he said.

"We're not under any illusions that this is an easy business, but if all goes well we could see number two, number three and number four fund," he said.


Ultimately there was an aspiration of the iwi to move to a greater level of self-autonomy, Majurey said.

"And certainly a great level of economic independence - to go full circle in a way."

If you looked back to the 1850s, Māori at that time had an economic base and were highly active in trade throughout New Zealand and across to Sydney.

Unfortunately those hopes for Maori economic independence were dashed in the next decade with the land wars.

"We here we are hoping to come back to those halcyon days."