Supporting Māori business success is essential to the socio-economic wellbeing of Northland. Māori make up more than a third of our entire region, and a half of the Far North District.
Successful Māori business owners are leading the way, establishing a Northland regional Māori network called Whāriki which is assisting new start-ups and Māori entrepreneurs with business growth.
Whāriki brings together successful Māori business experience into a network which includes bankers, lawyers, accountants and business administrators who voluntarily support business owners to develop their skills and confidence through a uniquely Māori tuākana-teina mentoring approach.
The Whāriki Māori business network, which originated in Tāmaki Makaurau, also offers targeted professional development and networking opportunities in areas such as marketing, accounting, human resources, utilising online promotional tools and accessing capital.
The opportunities to create sustainable jobs, grow our regional economy, strengthen communities, empower Māori tino rangatiratanga and build relationships through successful Māori business growth are huge.
The Government's Progressive Procurement programme, which ensures at least 5 per cent of agencies' contracts are procured from Māori businesses, provides an additional boost to this emerging sector of our regional economy.
This is a significant development opportunity for Northland's Māori business community, and a dynamic and evolving agency discipline that provides a 'hand-up' approach, rather than a 'hand-out'.
One major challenge we face as a region is a major economic disparity of wealth and income, which flows into a number of social and health challenges for our people.
As Northland develops our Regional Economic Development Strategy over the next 12 months, we need to ask ourselves whether a regional target of just 5 per cent procurement from Māori businesses is equitable, or likely to significantly shift the socio-economic dial.
Given Māori make up 36 per cent of our region, surely we should be more aspirational and raise this bar to ensure we make the sort of difference we all want to see for Te Tai Tokerau?
With the right vision and commitment, Local Government, Iwi and Large Regional Corporate Organisations could also support this progressive approach to procurement. We know the economic horse pulls the social cart.
Such a united approach would demonstrate a shared regional commitment and understanding that what is good for Northland Māori is good for all of Northland.
In this arena, Northland Inc is committed to supporting Whāriki and Amotai in building relationships with Government, Iwi, local council, and corporate organisations to collectively use their buying power to shift the social and economic dial for Northland Māori.
Amotai works alongside agencies and organisations to match their procurement needs to Māori and Pasifika businesses who hold the relevant experience, qualifications, skills, capability, and capacity. Amotai also helps to unlock opportunities, and supports better participation and engagement with our business community.
Missy Armstrong joined Amotai as the Supplier Diversity Lead for Te Tai Tokerau in April 2021, and has developed a Tai Tokerau database of suppliers. Businesses on the database are eligible for connections to buyer opportunities as they arise.
These opportunities are numerous and include construction, car leasing, gravel supply, native planting, specialist consulting and advisory, web development, and commercial cleaning, to name but a few.
In other regions this has seen hundreds of new Māori businesses stepping into these opportunities. Amotai, Northland Inc, Whāriki, Te Puni Kōkiri, Poutama Trust and several other organisations are committed to providing guidance and support for Māori businesses to grasp these emerging opportunities, but more will be needed as this sector of our economy grows in the future.
The mainstreaming of support for Māori businesses is crucial to long term success, and it is positive to see this being recognised by organisations such as North Chamber, who are establishing this focus through the appointment of a Māori Business Advisor.
As a region we have a massive amount of work on our hands, and support from the whole Northland community will be needed.
Māori entrepreneurism helped to found our nation, trading internationally, feeding and keeping the first settlers alive and suppling the Australian shipping and building sectors. We have a history of successful Māori business activity both nationally, regionally and globally. It is part of our whakapapa and engagement with He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Building a strong and successful Māori business sector makes sense, and will provide a foundation and a start to a more equitable future in Te Tai Tokerau.
This is a long game that will be best achieved through collaborative action, and the development of the Regional Economic Development Strategy this year is a good time to begin some of this mahi.
Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa taki tini – my success is not achieved alone, it is the success of the many.
Piripi Moore is GM Māori - Kaiwhakatere at Northland Inc