Hundreds of indigenous people, representing countries from all over the world descended on Rotorua last week, to engage and learn from each other.

The World Indigenous Business Forum has been growing in global momentum since 2010 and Rotorua won the bid to host this year's event.

The forum provided a platform to showcase Māori business, engage indigenous people in global economic discussions and leverage indigenous trade.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said it was a great honour for Rotorua to be selected as the host city.


"It's a chance to re-engage with our own culture and stand up proudly in front of people from all around the world."

The countries represented included America, Canada, Chile, Australia, Mexico and the Pacific Islands.

"It's a real mix of indigenous cultures and people," White said.

"They face the same challenges we face as Māori and there is a strong link in the values that indigenous cultures have, in terms of our relationship with who we are and where we come from."

He said Māori were doing well compared to a lot of indigenous cultures, but if they took their eye off the ball that could easily be lost.

"We can also help that to navigate through the spaces we have already walked.

"Pākehā call it collaboration, we call it whanaungatanga and we can show that it's possible."

The World Indigenous Business Forum was opened with a pōhiri at Te Papaiouru Marae. Photo / Stephen Parker
The World Indigenous Business Forum was opened with a pōhiri at Te Papaiouru Marae. Photo / Stephen Parker

Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada president and chief executive Keith Henry said Rotorua was beautiful and people were "very blessed" to live here.


Henry is from the Métis people in Canada and said he had come to New Zealand to learn how Māori had positioned themselves in the indigenous tourism industry.

"I am realising it is just ingrained in everything, Māori culture and the Māori language is just everywhere.

"In Canada, when we think of New Zealand we do think of that culture and I want our culture to become part of what people think of when they think of Canada."

He said the pōhiri at Te Papaiouru was something he would never forget.

"That was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and it was amazing to see everyone so proud of who they are and where they come from."

Princess Salote Pilolevu Tuita of Tonga was invited to be a speaker at the forum.

"I spoke about what women are doing in business, in my country and my view, and how indigenous women can play a part in business."

She said, in Tonga, the highest positions were held by women and she thought businesses could only benefit from having women as part of the team.

"I'm also here to learn how other indigenous cultures interact with each other, learn from each other's cultures and how they operate in business.

"I think it's great there are people here from all corners of the world."

While she was in Rotorua she hoped to have an opportunity to go on the Duck Tours and see the lakes.

"Rotorua is the heart of Māori culture and if this had been anywhere else I would have been disappointed," she said.

Tahiri Makuini Edwards-Hammond had travelled from Te Wairoa to represent rangatahi at the conference.

"It was scary at first coming into this space, I'm from a very small town and there are a lot of people here, but it's been great.

"I'm excited to engage with other people, especially to learn how they work with their rangatahi.

"I want to soak up their point of view and their strategies for revitalising their culture so we can all flourish in the future."