Minister of Māori Affairs speech: Māori Contribution to NZ Inc

I want to talk this afternoon about what it means to be a New Zealander, and what is our place on the world stage.

Published: Thursday, 16 February 2012 | Rāpare, 16 Huitanguru, 2012

Hon Dr Pita R Sharples
Minister of Māori Affairs
“Māori Contribution to NZ Inc”
16 February 2012

The late great scholar of Ngāti Porou, Te Kapunga ‘Koro’ Dewes, used to say that, to introduce yourself properly, you must answer the questions:
Ko wai koe?
Na wai koe?
No hea koe?

I want to talk this afternoon about what it means to be a New Zealander, and what is our place on the world stage.

A New Zealander comes from extraordinary pioneers who explored, settled and traded throughout the Pacific. Embarking on their journey before the birth of Christ, when other peoples were not venturing far from visible land, our tipuna used advanced celestial knowledge to guide them over ten million square miles of ocean. For a thousand years now, New Zealanders have been at the helm of one of the greatest stories of migration in the history of the world.

Whether they came on the first waka from Hawaiki, a NZ company boat in the late 1800s or the latest flight landing at Auckland International – our ancestors prevailed against incredible odds, and did so with bravery, wisdom and kōtahitanga, unity.

All of our ancestors and families were explorers and entrepreneurs: the ultimate project managers with a strategic plan who settled the biggest ocean on earth and produced a nation that in 2012 is increasingly seen as the best place to live on the planet. Our heritage, our courage, our culture, our ability to unite, many peoples as one: this is the edge that we as New Zealanders have over the rest of the world.

This ‘edge’ is our competitive advantage in the international market. Kōtahitanga is what “NZ Inc” is all about. NZ Inc is where all New Zealanders – across government and the private sector – are working in a collective and collaborative way to ensure greater success, particularly in the way we operate internationally. We have to have a united front.

New Zealand is tiny on the world stage, especially when we consider international markets such as China and India. Every developed nation around the world is competing to enter these markets that are emerging as the new global-powers of the 21st century. It is vital that New Zealand has a coordinated approach to our engagement with these nations.

We also need to be unique. We need a value proposition that our much larger competitors don’t have. That value proposition is Māori. Māori have so much to bring to the NZ Inc table. Worth nearly $37 billion in 2010, the Māori economy is a commercial powerhouse within the New Zealand economy.

Overseas markets, and international visitors to New Zealand, are increasingly receptive to the cultural distinctiveness inherent in indigenous products and services. Māori goods and services are unique and it is the tikanga Māori aspects of those goods and services that make them unique. Not just in the design or the materials, but in the way we do business.

We are in a new era of business and people today want to know the story behind their product – they want to know its whakapapa. More and more of our Māori organisations are significant contributors to the New Zealand economy. Ngai Tahu is the South Island’s largest company and Treaty of Waitangi settlements continue to provide a platform for tribal and Māori led growth. Prudent investment and an intergenerational outlook have seen our tribes prosper even in the depths of the last recession. Traditionally focused on primary industry, our tribal businesses are increasingly looking to diversify portfolios: telecommunications; property; carbon forestry; digital technology; and of course, power generation.

Our businesses include partnerships with government, private companies and overseas investors. Māori businesses and entrepreneurs are working together both domestically and internationally on major economic initiatives. Māori businesses nationwide were central to the official Rugby World Cup business club making up 15 per cent of participating companies.

As a result, iwi and Māori business leaders brokered a series of business relationships with stakeholders including international investment companies, agricultural multinationals, African leaders and global airlines. This business work took place throughout Aotearoa but there was also a need to ensure our tribes, businesses, artists and people had a place of mana on the Auckland waterfront during the biggest event this country has ever hosted. Not to do so would have been a huge, wasted opportunity. Increasingly it is overseas tourists and business people that are validating just how important Māori culture is to New Zealand’s reputation internationally. Not only is it important to have an NZ Inc approach to overseas markets, but we must also take the same approach here in Aotearoa. Unfortunately, Māori have sometimes been considered an after-thought, or even a risk to be managed, when New Zealand is hosting an international event. Waka Māori and the Rugby World Cup strategy proved otherwise – New Zealand as a whole can achieve greater success when we utilise our Māori culture, our Māori businesses, our Māori people.

When Rt Hon John Key launched the NZ Inc China Strategy a fortnight ago in Auckland, he did so saying “the Strategy provides a clear direction for the whole of government effort”. Richard Yan, Chair and CEO of the Richina Group, also reinforced this by saying that “the only way New Zealand could compete with other countries doing business in China was to take a collective NZ Inc. approach.” He went further by saying that we should think about a NZ Inc. brand that would provide the umbrella for individual New Zealand companies and present a united front. Māori Tourism has made some headway in their work to unite NZ Inc. players.

We need to follow their lead to work collaboratively and make long-standing, real gains. Last year with the eyes of the world on us, we stood to tell the world who we are, through our history, our culture, our art, our businesses and, most potently, through our people. New Zealanders up and down the country welcomed the world, to our marae, our towns, our tribal regions. New Zealanders – Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Asian – stood as one people with pride, with kōtahitanga.

This was not missed on our visitors who were quite simply, blown away. Scottish captain Alistair Kellock said his players would never forget their incredible welcome at Bluff’s Te Rau Aroha Marae. After being welcomed by Ngāti Toa just across town in Porirua, IRB member and South African Rugby Board chair Oregan Hoskins told Māori TV that experiencing Māori culture was something he had been looking forward to all of his life and something he would cherish for the rest of his life. Georgian team members were brought to tears in Masterton when they arrived in freezing rain to find hundreds waiting patiently to welcome them onto Te Ore Ore Marae. In the following weeks, scores of Wairarapa people wore Georgian colours and bussed all over the region to support their manuhiri. As the opening ceremony day dawned, the biggest fleet in living memory of waka Māori in Auckland was gathered. 600 paddlers took to the Waitematā harbour in a breathtaking, moving spectacle.

On the ground reporters interviewed scores of spectators, mostly Pākehā New Zealanders, most of whom were moved to tears. Later that evening, as millions tuned in to see what New Zealand could come up with in terms of opening ceremonies: we blew them away again. We told our story with mana and we stood together as New Zealanders in unity, and kōtahitanga. The Telegraph Newspaper said “What New Zealand has, is something of huge worth: a defining cultural pivot around which the whole event could spin. How the coordinator of London’s 2012 Olympics must envy New Zealand’s cultural coherence… the haka is one of the grand sights of world sport and at the heart of the whole opening ceremony.” These comments were echoed by other newspapers around the globe. Visiting Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones told the British media it was fascinating to gain an understanding of what New Zealand does to promote indigenous culture and bilingualism…of benefit to both countries.

Our own media, could not help but agree. The Herald announced that “Māori culture was proudly to the fore in an unforgettable start to the tournament.” The Dominion Post proclaimed that the opening was stunning, an overwhelming success that had won New Zealand worldwide acclaim. Māori culture was evident in so many aspects of the Rugby World Cup tournament. From the free-to-air coverage of games on Māori television; Māori designed merchandise; Māori wardens providing security at the games; to the hosting of players and visitors on marae throughout the motu. On the streets, flash mob hakas caught the imagination of the world and became instant Youtube hits. Manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga were integral to the success of the tournament.

Early on we recognised the need to utilise our point of difference to drive economic opportunity throughout the tournament. Waka Māori was a dream first held by Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei. I would like to congratulate and thank them for their courage to hold fast to a dream that was realised with the support of government and Māori. Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, the NZ Māori Rugby Team members and officials, past and present, our singers, performers, tā moko tattoo artists, weavers, carvers, businessmen and women, volunteers: Kia ora rawa atu koutou katoa e hoa mā. I can tell you Waka Māori was hugely popular. Costing far less than other RWC projects on the waterfront, Waka Māori welcomed 180,000 visitors, who spent more than $9 million on genuine Māori products. Nearly 90% said their experience with us was as high or higher than other RWC pavilions. Waka Māori proved what can be achieved when we combine our traditional knowledge, our cultural attractions, and our business acumen. Kōtahitanga: iwi, Māori business, local communities and government all working together. When the world looked to New Zealand last year, what did they find out? They found out that a New Zealander was Māori. A New Zealander was Pākehā. A New Zealander was Hindu. A New Zealander was Samoan. A New Zealander was Tongan.

Last year the world found out that New Zealand indigenous Māori culture was not something that divided us; it was not something we shied away from. The world discovered that Māori culture was something that brought our entire nation together. And more than that – the world saw that Māori enterprise is dynamic and sets us apart from everybody else. I have personally witnessed how cultural connections transcend language barriers and how deep relationships can be forged based on a cultural foundation. I have seen how Māori culture opens doors in Asian markets, such as China, and paves the way for Māori business and commercial success. In addition to a launching a centralised government strategy in India last year, and China a fortnight ago, others are under development in the US, Australia, South East Asia, the Middle East and the European Union. As a government Minister, I will lead the Māori contribution to NZ Inc. I will aim to ensure that Māori are at the decision-making table and central to NZ Inc. I will be a catalyst to support Māori to grow their businesses and to achieve success. I will help to build a global awareness of uniquely Māori products and services, and to encourage and create a premium for Māori exports overseas.

So now I set you all a wero, a challenge:
- Let’s build on what we have started and what the world media reported. - Let us do global business with Māori enterprise, arts and culture included from the get-go and in ALL of the strategies that we develop.
- NZ Inc is that much stronger with Māori as an integral part of it. This is our unique edge we have over the rest of the world. Let us venture forward together!