There are three concerns which underpin Māori agribusiness, according to Andrew McConnell, director of Māori strategy policy and partnerships at the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

A socio-economic and sustainability ethos, an approach toward long-term prosperity for future generations, and a drive to be innovative and open to opportunities.
"These are the things that really stand out," he says.

Included in the socio-economic and sustainable ethos, is the sense of social responsibility that comes through, along with a sense of guardianship for the environment, he adds.

Māori agribusiness is a substantial sector whose growth, MPI believes, will lead to economic growth for the whole nation.


The latest figures show that of New Zealand's asset classes, Māori own 50 per cent of the country's fishing quota, 40 per cent of forestry, 30 per cent of its sheep and beef production, 30 per cent of lamb production, 10 per cent of dairy production and 10 per cent of kiwifruit.

Collectively, Māori own $13 billion in primary sector assets, according to the Māori Investors Guide 2017.

Māori agribusiness growing land assets

Looking over the Treaty settlement process over the past 20 years, an important part of the settlement has been the return of the land where possible and funding to help establish a new economic base for iwi.

Māori control an estimated total of 1.48 million hectares of land either under private ownership or as registered Māori land owned by Māori authorities, enterprises and individuals. An estimated one third of this land is underutilised.

"Māori are from the land, our stories are about our association to the whenua (land). There is a deep connection and focus on enduring, long-term sustainability," says McConnell, who has Ngāti Porou whakapapa.

The land owned by Māori often has its challenges. Around 80 per cent of Māori land is unproductive due to its quality. It's steep, eroded, or in remote locations.

More horticulture projects

The Māori horticulture industry has quadrupled from 1000ha in 2016 to more than 4000ha in 2019 according to BERL. Converting land into horticulture can significantly increase financial return per hectare.

One project MPI has helped with is a kiwifruit orchard in the Eastern Bay of Plenty at Raukokore.


"It's an isolated community and 95 per cent of it is Māori land. MPI is working with hundreds of owners of 41 different land blocks over 8000ha," says McConnell
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has allocated $16 million to the orchard, a significant part of which will be a loan.

MPI helps groups to establish the feasibility of concepts before PGF funding is sought.
The Ministry has helped three different iwi groups from Northland, Waikato and Taranaki bring in PGF funding for blueberry (orchard) developments with Miro. They are small blocks of land in each of these regions but provide an income for their beneficiaries and are employing 55 in one area and 130 in another.

"We assist the groups to help themselves," says McConnell. "The approach is a hand-up one. The relationship begins with a hongi and a handshake, then there is a hand up to look at different types of advice from professionals in the field to establish what their assets can be used for."

Sometimes MPI will refer Māori groups to relevant professionals in the field.
"For example, they might be interested in forestry, technology or research and we help apply another type of advice or support," says McConnell.

MPI is working with Ngāi Takoto in the far north, in developing an avocado plantation on 300 hectares of land. This was land returned to Ngāi Takoto in 2012 through the collective Te Hiku o Te Ika Treaty settlement redress.

"We've worked with Ngāi Takoto right through, going from the feasibility plan, to the best uses of the land, to developing an orchard facility through the Māori Agribusiness Pathway," says McConnell.

Afforestation best solution for a lot of Māori land

A significant proportion of Māori land is best suited to afforestation with a number of land trusts now invested in forestry.

"They are good options, they give a good return, provide employment and it retains the land which is consistent with many groups' values," says McConnell. And pine forestry is an export business.

Other Māori agribusinesses with richer land have mixed asset portfolios and have spread their risk well.

A good example is Wakatū Incorporation in the Nelson area. Its Kono NZ business, mainly based on 530 hectares of productive land, has a range of different operations which include farming, seafood, wine, apples and natural food bars. It is a strong export business.

"It's a cutting edge, fully integrated value proposition. They are a really good example of being at the upper end of the spectrum of agribusiness," says McConnell.

Examples of innovation

If you want to experience exciting ideas and enthusiasm about what is possible, talk to a group of Māori land owners, McConnell says. Bright ideas for land diversification are coming up more and more. A good example is an incorporation in Pureora that has ginseng growing beneath the forest there.

"It's a fascinating business venture that has found the soil, altitude, the circumstances of the land, good for ginseng and the ginseng income holds them through while the pine forest matures."

Meanwhile there is interesting land diversification going on, on Māori land in Hawera including for dairy goats, sheep dairy, hemp and quinoa.

"People's interest is high in opportunities that are different from the more traditional sheep, beef and dairy, ideas which have less of an environmental footprint but provide a return to meet social/economic drivers," says McConnell.

Māori agribusiness is also looking at ways to reduce environmental harm and reduce the carbon footprint.

Several groups have approached MPI about looking at alternatives to dairy or ways to achieve a higher value with less impact.

Says O'Connell: "We also have a number of groups wanting to access support for riparian planting to reduce impact on waterways. You generally tend to find, when the decision for a development is coming down to an environmental impact which is negative, people aren't willing to take the risk."

The Māori Economy

Chapman Tripp's 2017 'Te Ao Māori - Trends and Insights', estimates the value of the Māori asset base at over $50 billion, with 30 per cent held by Māori collectives (including Post Settlement Government Entities, Māori land trusts and Māori incorporations).
Chapman Tripp suggests that continued growth in the Māori economy will be further driven by Treaty settlements and increased merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, increased participation in export markets, increased collaboration among Māori-owned entities, and increased social investment and disbursement among iwi-members.

• Māori own 50% of NZ's fishing quota
• 40% of forestry
• 30% in lamb production
• 30% in sheep and beef production
• 10% in dairy production
• 10% in kiwifruit production
Source: Māori Investors Guide 2017

Māori own $13 billion in primary sector assets (approximately 10 per cent of the total New Zealand agriculture, forestry and fishing asset base).
Māori control an estimated total of 1.48 million hectares of land, either under private ownership or as registered Māori land owned by Māori authorities, enterprises and individuals. An estimated one-third of this land is underutilised.

Statistics on Māori businesses from 2017/18 according to Stats NZ:

• A large proportion of Māori authority business is concerned with managing natural resources directly (eg. farming) or managing them indirectly (eg. forestry rights lease-management). In February 2018, of about 1170 Māori authority businesses, one-third were non-residential property operators and one-sixth agricultural businesses.
• Māori small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conduct a diverse range of activities. No single industry division includes more than 15 per cent of the total number of businesses. The two main industries are manufacturing and agriculture, with 13 per cent and 11 per cent of Māori SMEs, respectively.
• Of Māori-owned SMEs, kiwifruit (up from 314 to 471 hectares) and onions (up from 318 to 435 hectares) are now more favoured crops than wine grapes (falling from 408 to 321 hectares), the most favoured in 2014.
• The number of hectares of land used for horticulture increased 28 per cent from 2016 to 2017, although this is still less than 1 per cent of the total land managed by Māori farms.
• Grassland continues to be the main land use of Māori farms, up 3 per cent from 2016 to 2017, to 51 per cent of total land under management.
• Māori authority businesses focused on agriculture increased their total income by 15 per cent to $337 million from 2016 to 2017, against a 7 per cent increase in expenditure.
• The total value of assets owned by all Māori authority businesses continued an upward trend and was at $20.1 billion in 2017. This figure is not a complete picture of the size of the Māori economy as it excludes assets owned by many Māori SMEs and self-employed Māori.

Māori and Horticulture facts and figures according to Māori in horticulture report by BERL:

• Māori share 9% of kiwifruit land in New Zealand.
• Māori share 8% of onion land in New Zealand.
• Māori share 5% of New Zealand horticulture land.
• The Māori horticulture industry has quadrupled from 1000 hectares in 2016, to more than 4000 hectares in 2019.
• The estimated gross output for Māori horticulture in New Zealand is $220 million per year.
• Converting land into horticulture can significantly increase financial return per hectare. Vegetables are estimated to generate an estimated $14,000 per hectare, while fruit (excluding kiwifruit) can generate up to approximately $30,000 per hectare.