IMHO: The future is Māori

By Christian Hawkesby MInstD, Assistant Governor RBNZ
27 Aug 2021
read time
4 min to read
Various green lines running across like a wave

The following is an excerpt from Christian Hawkesby's panel remarks delivered to the IoD Leadership Conference in Tāmaki Makaurau on 6 May 2021. 

IoD members can watch a recording of the Te Ōhanga Māori panel session at the IoD Leadership Conference. Also, read Christian's full panel remarks on the RBNZ website.

Te Ōhanga Māori

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand recently commissioned Berl to produce a report that measures the Māori economy: Te Ōhanga Māori 2018 [the Māori Economy Report] (Berl 2020).

We commissioned the report because we think it’s important to shine a light on this vital part of our economy, not just as a resource for ourselves, but also for local and central government, iwi, community groups, and for you as directors. We recognise that there are a lot of important collective decisions that need to be made, and we’re proud to be part of the conversation.

The Berl report gives a fact based grounding for our understanding and decision making. It updates a similar report produced by Berl in 2013, and compliments other recent Māori economy research such as the Te Matapaeroa report from Te Puni Kōkiri (2020).

The report shows that Te Ōhanga Māori has grown in value from $42.6b in 2013, to $68.7b in 2018. But more important are the themes of vibrancy, variety, and growth that challenge historical stereotypes.

Māori collectives and businesses are supporting the wellbeing of their people through a broad range of channels, including;

  • Community engagement, participation, and contribution
  • Whānau and family caring
  • Paid employment
  • Unpaid voluntary work
  • Trust and business enterprise activities.

The Māori economy extends far beyond the scale of Treaty settlements and far beyond the traditional industries of Fishing, Forestry, Farming, and Tourism. Māori business is becoming increasingly diversified and dynamic, with high numbers of skilled Māori moving into entrepreneurship and employing considerable numbers of people. 

The employment base is expanding too. Between 2013 and 2018, the Māori population grew by 30 percent, and the number of Māori in employment grew by a massive 47 percent. More and more Māori are joining the labour force each year and, at least prior to the disruption of COVID-19, they were finding successful employment at the highest rate in almost a decade (Stats NZ 2018).

The Māori population is expected to continue to grow. Māori are young, and they’re growing their families faster than the average for Aotearoa. Currently, Māori represent 17 percent of the population. By 2038, that share is projected to grow to nearly 20 percent (Stats NZ 2017).

All of these trends are described in great detail in Berl’s report. The authors have gone to great lengths to provide a detailed analysis of the data we have available, to help shape these emerging narratives about Te Ōhanga Māori. For those who haven’t already, I strongly recommend that everyone in this room takes some time to explore some of their insights.

The themes which emerge add up to a view that the future of the New Zealand economy is Māori.

Ki te Ao Mārama

When I say that the future is Māori, I’m not just talking about Māori people, Māori businesses, or Māori jobs.

Perhaps one of the most powerful ways in which Māori will shape the future of Aotearoa New Zealand is through Māori values.

For generations, Māori economic relationships have been guided by core principles like manaakitanga (respect and generosity), kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and whanaungatanga (relationships). While I don’t claim to be an expert on these values, it is easy to see how these guiding principles have led to some common themes in the Māori approach to the economy:

  • Firstly, Māori businesses aim to support collective rather than individual wellbeing. This means success is often measured across dimensions other than profit.
  • Secondly, that collectivism extends to future generations, meaning Māori have an emphasis on kaitiakitanga and take a long-term, intergenerational view of decision making.
  • Thirdly, our responsibilities to Papatūānuku are deeply ingrained in Māori thinking, meaning environmental sustainability and respect stand at the foreground of business decisions.

In the past, some observers might have described a ‘tension’ between these values and a firm’s drive to generate profit, implying that these values can hold firms back from recognising their economic potential. But if that were ever true, it certainly does not describe the future of the New Zealand economic landscape as I see it standing here today. Indeed, the Productivity Commission (2020) recently produced a fascinating report which notes how Māori businesses can leverage their unique identity and values to strengthen their value proposition.

It would seem that mainstream social values are becoming increasingly Māori. We see this in government, with the introduction of the Wellbeing and Living Standards framework (The Treasury 2019). We see it in business, with the rise of socially driven enterprise, and the large number of traditional firms actively targeting their impact on climate change.

We see the same trends reflected in investment choices. Whereas sustainable and impact investing were once niche strategies, incorporating ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) factors into investment decisions is now standard practice. Firms which can effectively generate a virtuous circle of economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, financial inclusion, and cultural diversity are being rewarded for their efforts.

In many ways, it seems the Pākeha world is catching up with Te Ao Māori, and this is a trend I expect to continue. We only need to look to our rangatahi (youth), and the fierce enthusiasm with which they approach kaupapa like climate change, racial inequality, and social justice, to see that Māori values are shaping our future.

As our schools, iwi, and community groups continue to promote and develop proficiency in Te Reo Māori and tikanga Māori, they will further accelerate this process. Our mokopuna (grandchildren) will know and accept te tirohanga Māori ki te ao (the Māori worldview) as an integral part of life in Aotearoa.

And to them I say kia kaha (keep it up). The future of the New Zealand economy is Māori, and it’s bright.

As directors, these are the values of your future employees, customers, shareholders, stakeholders, and business partners.

Which leads us to the natural conclusion that an understanding of Te Ao Māori must be a core competency for all New Zealand directors. Not only because Māori deserve to have their values represented, not only because it’s our obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi, but because the Māori world view is an increasingly integral aspect of the New Zealand society that we all serve.

Christian Hawkesby profile picture
About the author

Christian Hawkesby is Assistant Governor and General Manager of Economics, Financial Markets and Banking at the RBNZ.

He is responsible for formulating monetary policy, providing liquidity in financial markets, managing the foreign reserves, operating interbank payment and settlement systems, and the circulation of currency.

The views expressed in this article do not reflect the position of the IoD unless explicitly stated.

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