Towards the end of last year I attended a conference in Nelson where one of the keynote speakers was a representative of the upper South Island Maori food and beverage company Kono. This organisation represents 3500 Maori shareholders and has an asset base of about $260 million. Recently this business have been recognised for their contribution to New Zealand’s exporting economy after being announced as finalists for the Maori Category 2015 New Zealand Business International Awards. It is a salient reminder of the role Maori business plays within New Zealand’s regional economies and the potential growth opportunities that exist within this sector.

I would argue that there are few places in New Zealand where realising this potential could be as truly transformational to a region’s economy as here in Northland. With 30 percent of our regional population being Maori – compared with the national average of 14 percent – Maori enterprise is intrinsically linked to our future success. Their existing contribution is already significant and any initiatives to grow this will benefit all Northlanders.

That is what made last week’s launch of “Te Tangata, Te Whenua, Te Oranga – An Economic Growth Strategy for The Taitokerau Maori Economy” so exciting. Developed by Te Taitokerau Iwi Chief Executives Consortium this report is the first independently developed document of its kind and considers economic development for Northern iwi within a strong cultural context, a context that considers the intergenerational well being of their people and their land.

Making the conversation one of economics rather than social, recognises that economic growth is often not so much about simple wealth creation but rather the choices and opportunity that wealth creation provides. Placing these aspirations within a cultural context clearly articulates how the wider economy and regional businesses can collaborate and achieve mutual benefit. It also confirms that these economic aspirations are not separate but a part of the wider regional aspirations to grow the economy.

Congratulations Mr Robinson and his team and to the many others who contributed to this strategy. This document should be the starting point for a collaborative approach focussed on achieving a high level of long-term wellbeing for a large portion of Northland’s population and their land. Their invitation to others, to participate in helping them achieve these aspirations is encouraging. I am looking forward to see what positives develop from this and how they will shape Northland’s future stories.

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