I was sitting at the traffic lights in Porowini Avenue the other day and looked up at the tangle of power and telephone lines strung overhead and I was reminded of the innovative approach Northpower fibre took to deliver UFB to Whangarei on time and on budget by stringing fibre overhead rather than underground.  The same lines also reminded me of Maori entrepreneurship.  Every second person you meet today is an entrepreneur.  Often as term that they have bestowed upon themselves based on the fact that they have identified an opportunity, taken risks to take advantage of that opportunity and then gained some kind of success out of it all.  In other words a fairly typical business person.

In 2011 research put the Maori economic base at $36.9 billion and Maori as the world’s third most entrepreneurial indigenous people – harnessing their business potential would have major benefits for the New Zealand economy.  This should hardly come as a surprise and nor is Maori entrepreneurship a recent development.

From the time of first contact in the late 1700s they became international traders.  Even before this time Maori mythology also celebrated the ability to be able to identify opportunity, planning to take advantage of the opportunity, allocating resources to achieve this and finally the outcome of these endeavours benefiting the whole community.

This last element of benefit to the whole community is particularly important because generally when we talk economic growth we should measure it against indicators that show all parts of our community

Which brings me back to the telephone lines and possibly Northland’s first IT entrepreneur.  Born in the late 1850s, Kaka Porowini was a true leader and entrepreneur.  From what I have read, much of his life was devoted the well-being of many Northland communities.  As well concerning himself with housing and feeding people in Northland was responsible for creating a telephone network connecting many remote Northland communities.  At the time this was a task that was beyond the capabilities of either local or central government and demonstrates once again that Maori have always been predisposed to participating in innovative economic activity.  This is reassuring because Northlands future to a large extent will be determined by, or at least closely linked to future iwi participation in our regional economy.  What public and private sector must do is ensure that there is an environment and mechanisms in place ensure this involvement can be enabled rather than impeded.


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