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Westpac NZ unveils new research on indigenous/Māori economy

New research into Aotearoa New Zealand’s Māori economy underpinned discussions at APEC 2021 LIVE with Business: Indigenous inclusion in the global financial economy – Together Greater, hosted by APEC CEO Summit Premier Partner, Westpac NZ.

A new report commissioned by Westpac NZ has found that while Māori businesses are growing in number, they remain underrepresented within Aotearoa’s economy and face barriers to growth. The session was a lead-in to the APEC CEO Summit in November and builds on a focus on indigenous business and economic opportunity within the APEC 2021 dialogues.

Opening the session, Westpac NZ Acting CEO Simon Power said the report highlights key areas where Māori are being held back: “Firstly, Māori are overrepresented in low-skilled jobs, which contributes to an income gap of around $2.6b NZD between Māori and non-Māori,” says Mr Power.

”Secondly, a lack of access to funding is stifling future growth, and thirdly, Māori home ownership rates lag well behind non-Māori, depriving would-be entrepreneurs of an asset to borrow against to start their own business,” Mr Power says.

Tackling these complex and interlinked challenges is essential says Mr Power, pointing to indicators of how these obstacles bring with them “opportunities for success,” including a burgeoning Māori labour force which grew by 40% between 2013 and 2018, and examples of Māori businesses embracing various pathways for success and wellbeing.

The research was unveiled at an APEC 2021 LIVE with Business session, which brought together indigenous business leaders from Aotearoa New Zealand and Canada to discuss the role of the indigenous economy across APEC economies, as well as the opportunities for growth, innovation, productivity, employment and wellbeing.

Discussions were relevant to the theme of APEC 2021: Join, Work, Grow. Together - Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē - and initiatives aimed at connecting indigenous peoples from around the region to APEC, which is home to 245 million indigenous people.

Sir Ian Taylor, the founder and Managing Director of award-winning computer animation company, Animation Research, set the scene for the event, describing Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique position as a bicultural nation where “we have brought these two cultures together: the skills which come from Māori innovation dating back centuries, to the skill and knowledge of Pākeha [European New Zealanders].”

Moderated by distinguished New Zealand journalist Carol Hirschfeld, a panel of indigenous business experts discussed what it takes to create an environment where indigenous people have access to financial resources, networks, experience, and other factors essential to inclusion and that drives real economic growth.

First Nation businesswoman and expert in indigenous governance, Lucy Pelletier, pointed to Canada’s thriving indigenous economy, contributing $30b CAD annually with 19,000 indigenous businesses generating more than $10b CAD in revenue.

Fit for purpose solutions, including providing access to appropriate financial sector advisers, has been key to the success of indigenous and First Nation businesses, as has eliminating institutionalised barriers which affect indigenous people and their ability to generate wealth.

Chair of Te Arataura - Waikato-Tainui (New Zealand), Linda Te Aho emphasised the importance of self-determination and tribal-led organisations which help indigenous groups shape their own destination and “achieve a vision of being fluent in our language, strong, healthy, well-educated and financially secure.”

Looking at the example of iwi-led housing initiatives in New Zealand, Ms Te Aho highlighted the success of such programmes which enable indigenous groups to create intergenerational wealth, grow equity in and from their homes and be able to start their own businesses.

Chair of Atihau-Whanganui Inc (New Zealand), Mavis Mullins reinforced the importance of reconciling cultural values and mindsets, highlighting the ephemeral nature of values and norms, which have brought about powerful and tangible outcomes for indigenous communities.

A key to this was overcoming obstacles and any breakdowns in cross-cultural communication.

“It is about backing up to understand each other’s value sets and where we all come from. That has been a journey for Māori as we reclaim our own value sets, but also [as we] consider the values and mindsets of the world we live in,” she said.

Panellists’ comments were echoed by indigenous businesswoman and Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Rachel Taulelei (New Zealand), who noted the Māori economy within New Zealand was growing faster than the overall economy.

One of the areas where opportunity was lost was in governments not understanding the potential of their indigenous economies. This could be overcome by eliminating barriers for indigenous businesses in the region and working with them to achieve greater resilience and success, Ms Taulelei said.

APEC 2021 – LIVE with Business: Indigenous inclusion in the global financial economy - Together Greater, was the third in a series of events bringing together leading business figures and thought leaders to set the scene for APEC CEO Summit 2021 in November.

Held annually, the CEO Summit is one of the Asia-Pacific’s premier business forums. It attracts a wide range of influential CEOs from some of the largest companies in the world. The 2021 CEO Summit will be a virtual event linking government, business and thought leaders from across the APEC region with attendees from around the world.

Find out more about the APEC CEO Summit 2021 and the APEC 2021 LIVE with Business series, including upcoming LIVE with Business events from PwC and Contact Energy.

To register as a delegate for the APEC CEO Summit click here.