The drive for Maori development

The search is on for a new generation of Maori economic leaders to drive the second hui taumata, or Maori economic development summit, to be held next year.

The intention to hold a summit has been confirmed by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia in the wake of Clark’s comment to the Labour party conference on November 8 that it was time to “take stock” 20 years after the first summit in November 1984.

Clark said later in an interview that next year’s summit would set a platform for Maori development for the next 20 years. Much had happened since the first summit — including, in education, the development of kohanga reo and Maori language schools (kura), and Maori delivery of social services — and there was a “hell of a lot going in Maori business facilitation”. But “it needs to lift up a cog again”.

This is part of a “shift in focus from a gaps focus to an opportunity focus”, she said.

Little detail is available, either from Clark or her Maori ministers. Horomia, however, said he would convene a “steering group” and vowed the hui taumata would not be a “conference for the sake of a conference”.

He wanted Maori to “bring to the table” of national development “well-managed assets and a highly educated people”. This, he said required a cultural change in which better educated and more entrepreneurial younger Maori were not required to wait until their 60s before taking part in decision-making.

Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere was blunter. Tamihere, who is also small business minister, said in an interview the steering group would be a new generation of younger leaders in place of the familiar faces of Maori Council chair Sir Graham Latimer, Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission chair Shane Jones, Federation of Maori Authorities Paul Morgan and Tamihere himself. Tamihere ran the innovative Waipareira Trust before entering Parliament in 1999.

He said there must be a cultural change to realise “innate potential” and move from “victimhood to nationhood”, with Maori proud of themselves as kiwis.

He did not add, but might have, that there needs also to be a cultural change in management of many Maori assets. This was a major finding in a general positive report on the Maori economy for Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) by the Institute of Economic Research in February.

The ministers may encounter scepticism among Maori. None of the major recommendations of the first hui taumata were implemented in the form they were proposed and some were ignored.

That hui wanted: a Maori development bank; a Maori authorities industry training board; a Maori economic development commission; amendments to planning acts so they did not frustrate Maori economic and cultural aspirations; and centralised information, available to regional and tribal groups, on development options. The then Maori Affairs Minister, Koro Wetere, and Prime Minister, David Lange, solemnly promised implementation.

Instead, Maori lost their jobs in droves as a result of economic restructuring and the corporatisation and sale of state commercial assets. Maori unemployment topped 20 per cent, reversing Wetere’s injunction to the hui that Maori development must be faster than non-Maoris’ in the short term.

This puts special weight on Clark’s “opportunity” focus.

There is something to work on. Horomia said younger Maori have been emerging in a range of businesses, including the cultural industries.

And the Institute of Economic Research report found that:

* The Maori economy is more profitable than the general economy, has a higher savings rate and is a net lender to the general economy.

* Maori households contribute more in tax than they receive in benefits and other fiscal transfers.

* The Maori economy grew faster between 1997 and 2002 than the general economy and was “poised for continued expansion”. The 1990s were “spectacular”.

* The Maori economy is more exposed to international trade than the general economy and this offers “important opportunities and challenges”.

* The apparent trade-off between Maoriness and economic success is actually mostly a failure of the existing institutions to reconcile the two better.

* There are difficulties getting finance but Maori institutions themselves, which have high retained profits, could fill the gap.

* The return on equity and assets is lower in than the general economy, which reflects a need for big governance changes. “Many Maori organisations must pursue multiple objectives” and “cultural values can become an all-purpose excuse for mismanagement and low-quality governance”.