Ngāi Tahu investment
In the early 2000s Ngāi Tahu was widely regarded as a tribe that performed successfully commercially. Ngāi Tahu separated its governance and investment arms, to provide clarity on roles and functions, and to ensure decision-making limits were clear.
Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation is the commercial arm of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and trades under the name of the Ngāi Tahu Holdings Group (NTHG). It manages a diversified portfolio of investments that includes equities, property, seafood and tourism. The key function of NTHG is to manage Ngāi Tahu investment assets. In 2008, 10 years after settlement with the Crown, Ngāi Tahu had total assets of $644 million, less debt of $118 million, and had an operating surplus of $31 million.
Corporatisation and tikanga
Translating tikanga (Māori customs) into a style of management that is successful commercially has been a challenge for iwi. The inclusive, ‘flax roots’ style of iwi institutions contrasts with corporate hierarchies. The two dynamics have to be understood and managed well.
In the early 2000s iwi preferred business activity that was aligned with their cultural values, and built on strategic relationships, locally and, increasingly, with other iwi. Iwi felt a collective responsibility to support other iwi-owned businesses and further Māori economic development. Iwi investment had a strong intergenerational focus and aimed to create a tribal footprint in homelands, to further tribal authority and influence in their region. Tribes and organisations like land trusts and incorporations have created a pattern of investment within their own tribal or hapū area, with an emphasis on land, property and local opportunities.
Māori business success
Characteristics of Māori businesses that have contributed to their success include:
- the low debt–equity ratio of most
- structural separation of commercial and non-commercial functions
- opportunities to diversify provided by settlement assets
- maintaining good communications with shareholders
- a focus on social, cultural, environmental and business goals
- succession programmes to ensure tribal members progress into management roles
- collaborative relationships with other iwi to advance the economic development of Māori.