Public reporting on large tribal and Maori corporate bodies has increased over the past decade. Major articles on the business pages reflect growing mainstream appetite to be informed about Treaty settlements, Maori investments, and general Maori business. There is a sense that Maori corporates are natural long-term investors and partners in NZ Inc and also an excellent source of co-investment funds and security.
Increased reporting and communications, however, has not addressed the real issue for most Maori corporates - whether they are actually relevant for the people, for the tribal members or land owners who ultimately own the assets that the corporates are responsible for.
Financial results are not the only relevant measure for many tribal members and Maori land owners. Whilst potentially a source of pride, the financial statements are more topical for newspaper columnists and professional consultants to discuss over Friday night drinks.
Relevance relies more on the ability of governors/managers to connect the organisations with "their people" and deliver meaningful wealth and wellbeing opportunities for individuals and whanau members.
Relevance for Maori often relates to how well kaupapa Maori - values, tikanga and identity - are expressed in practical ways through both investment and distribution.
In carrying out their duties and responsibilities, governors of Maori organisations often look to "good governance" and "best practice" definitions to build the bedrock of the organisation. Intricate strategies, plans, policies, and guidelines drive the management teams to ensure that financial results, liquidity and leverage profiles, engagement scores and other policy settings are achieved.
Whilst necessary for fulfilling their governance and management obligations, these organisational standards alone are not enough to ensure the organisations are relevant to their owners.
Not all Maori organisations have transparent and quantitative (or qualitative) measures for kaupapa Maori. Concepts such as manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga start playing second fiddle to management tools such as net profit and hurdle rates. As a result, organisational reporting and communications can often be skewed towards what may be important to a narrow band of stakeholders rather than the people who ultimately own the organisation.
Reporting and communications then starts driving organisational strategy towards what the financial media, the Accounting Standards Board, and the High Court may consider suitable with less focus on kaupapa Maori. In my view, this is where many Maori organisations and their governors and managers are at risk of getting it wrong. We are taught through business experience, MBA programmes, law schools, institute of director courses that we must operate within the legal, accounting, investment and other standards.
However, kaupapa Maori are what many tribal members, land owners and the upskilled Maori management workforce, are inspired by. It's not a case of either/or - both standards and kaupapa Maori are fundamental to Maori organisational success. The ability of Maori corporates to connect with and positively influence the lives of individual tribal members, land owners, and their whanau - in a Maori way - has never been more important.
Increasing net profit and net asset worth, and improving the cost to serve are meaningful organisational objectives. But these types of objectives and the governance/management standards that go with them are merely means to an end that should be doing the right thing for their people. If relevance is not established and maintained, there will be challenges in retaining the buy-in of iwi members and governance appointment processes.
Commentators, governors, managers and other stakeholders should start exploring potential for statements of kaupapa performance measuring how well tikanga have been expressed, a tikanga standards authority recommending tikanga Maori opportunities for Maori corporates, and possibly Best Kaupapa awards for those Maori organisations who best exemplify kaupapa Maori.
People cheerfully support chief diversity officers in large Western corporates - and perhaps a chief kaupapa officer or chief tikanga officer is timely. Clarifying what is important, how this is measured, and how it is reported will help keep it relevant and also offer a much broader and deeper suite of investment and distribution opportunities for all.