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Wednesday, 19 January 2022 09:55

Maori punching above their weight

Written by  Peter Burke
Quinn Morgan winner of the 2021 Young Māori Dairy farmer of the year is an example of the success Māori are having in the agri sector. He is seen here with his wife Samantha at the presentation of the awards last year. Quinn Morgan winner of the 2021 Young Māori Dairy farmer of the year is an example of the success Māori are having in the agri sector. He is seen here with his wife Samantha at the presentation of the awards last year.

Meka Whaitiri says Māori agribusiness is yet to realise its full potential.

The Associate Agriculture Minister told Rural News there's Māori-owned land that is still underutilised. However, she believes there are significant opportunities for Māori to be an even more significant contributor to the NZ economy.

Her comments come in the wake of a special section on Māori contribution to the economy contained in the latest MPI Situation and Outlook (SOPI) report on the primary sector. The report notes the asset base of Māori in agriculture, forestry and fishing is $23.4 billion. Sheep and beef is the largest contributor at $8.6b, with dairy at $4.9b, forestry at $4.3b and fishing at $2.9b. Kiwifruit is $0.7b and other horticulture at $0.5b.

Other points of interest in the report include the fact that Māori agribusiness contributes $2.4b to NZ's GDP and that 32% of all Māori businesses are in the primary industries space. It also reveals that 22,500 Māori work in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The report describes Māori as being significant participants in the primary industry, as landowners, asset holders, innovators and leaders. It says Māori agribusiness is also increasingly recognised for the leadership it provides around the issue of sustainability.

In a global context, the report says that Māori-produced goods are underpinned by strong cultural and environmental values and, as such, are highly regarded by consumers. The report goes on to say that a characteristic of Māori businesses is that they have lower debt and higher profit levels. It also states that these iwi-owned businesses provide good employment opportunities for whanau and are key drivers in regional economic development.

Whaitiri says Māori agribusiness is growing at an exponential rate. She also claims that many of the 'wiser' sector leaders recognise the role that Māori is playing in the agri space and in her travels around the country she is seeing some very positive signs.

"I am encouraged by the willingness of people to collaborate with the Māori agribusiness sector. To see the Māori land blocks that are combining their capabilities and exploring other uses of their land. For example, Ngai Tahu leaning towards more regenerative agriculture and other places up north looking at doing the same," Whaitiri told Rural News.

"Wherever I go, iwi and Māori landowners are looking to not only make getting greater use out of their lands but also to make more sustainable use that is leading to healthier balance sheets at the end of the day."

Whaitiri says people tend to forget that Māori have been operating in the agri space for a very long time. She says Māori have a formidable record as innovators and traders.

"There are stories of many iwi owning schooners to trade not only within NZ but also Australia - so we have got that in our DNA. There are some learnings that Māori have that will benefit all New Zealanders. I want to put my efforts into showing what is good for Māori is good for all," she says.

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