Published in: Kokiri Issue 15 - Pipiri - Hōngongoi 2009
The Government is investing $10 million over 2009/10 and 2010/11 in the Māori Economic Taskforce.
During a Post Budget Breakfast meeting co-hosted by Te Awe Māori Business Network, the Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, took the opportunity to introduce the appointment for two years of seven business leaders to the Taskforce.
These leaders include Mark Solomon, Ngahiwi Tomoana, Bentham Ohia, Daphne Luke, John Tamihere, June McCabe and Rob McLeod. Leith Comer, Chief Executive of Te Puni Kōkiri, and Hon Georgina te Heuheu, Associate Minister of Māori Affairs, are also members of the Taskforce.
The Taskforce is conducting work in seven key areas: tribal asset development, the primary sector, education and training, small to medium enterprises, social and community development, investment and enterprise, and economic growth and infrastructure.
The Taskforce has agreed to three high-level goals.
The first is, in the short term, to protect and support Māori through the period of economic recession. This goal will involve training for skills and education, investing in resilience for communities and protecting or growing employment opportunities.
The second goal is to think beyond the recession and identify strategic economic development opportunities for Māori. The aim is to lift Māori participation in the economy and unlock Māori potential in the appropriate areas so that Māori can take advantage, and be drivers, of the recovery.
The third goal is to promote and utilise kaupapa Māori and Māori structures as drivers of prosperity. This is a real area of strength that serves to differentiate Māori and enables us to forge our own unique pathway into the future.
The Taskforce has also identified four broadly defined areas of influence that serve to consolidate the seven key areas. These are education and training; communities; investment, capital and enterprise; and assets.
Education and training involves undertaking learning in order to adapt to and take advantage of the recession.
“Communities, including whānau, hapū and iwi, are incredibly resilient and they know their own needs and requirements better than anyone. The goal should be to underpin and support the activities of these groups during a recession,” says the Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples.
“Investment, capital and enterprise are practices that Māori have been undertaking for centuries. Māori were the industry leaders in New Zealand during the early colonial period. The goal of the Taskforce is to uncover and encourage this entrepreneurial spirit, remove the barriers and identify the opportunities to allow it to flourish,” he says.
The Māori asset base had an estimated value of $16.5 billion in 2005/06 and is almost certainly significantly more valuable today. This presents a significant resource that can be leveraged in order to drive Māori prosperity. The role of the Taskforce is to support the maintenance and growth of these assets.
The Taskforce has been active in advocating on behalf of Māori and has made a submission on the Government’s Broadband Investment initiative. Infrastructure like broadband is a key issue for Māori because access to services underpins our communities and their development. There is also a huge opportunity for Māori to be involved in infrastructure investment given the nature and extent of the Māori asset base. Infrastructure investment also presents employment opportunities for Māori across a whole spectrum of sectors in which Māori are heavily represented, such as construction, and could also be leveraged to increase employment in other sectors.
The Taskforce submission reflected these issues by advocating to prevent digital exclusion in rural areas and for an explicit commitment to the inclusion of Māori, iwi and hapū in the roll-out of broadband infrastructure over the next six years.