Skip to main content

Māori and the Crown


Māori have a recognised and powerful constitutional role in New Zealand society, underpinned by the nation's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.

Māori ran small enterprises before Europeans arrived in New Zealand. They had well-established bartering systems and regular trading patterns amongst their own whānau and hapū, within their iwi, and between iwi.

Early Māori trade

Trading revolved around regional products which were exchanged over long distances by hapū and iwi. Coastal Māori offered kaimoana (seafood), and inland Māori provided berries, preserved birds and other products of the forest in return. Obsidian from Tūhua (Mayor Island), argillite from Nelson and D'Urville Island, basalt from Tahanga in the Coromandel and pounamu (greenstone or jade) from the South Island were all traded.

Impact of European settlement

Following European settlement, Māori switched their focus away from trading amongst themselves to forging business associations with the new settlers. Māori supplied the towns and cities that sprang up with livestock and crops. This soon extended to developing business relationships internationally, and Māori traded in the South Pacific and Australia. As New Zealand developed as a country and the economy grew, Māori found their niche in the primary sectors of business, such as farming and fishing, preferring to remain within their own rohe (regions) on their traditional land blocks, and collectively deriving an income through agricultural activities.