A 2003 report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research attempted a contemporary definition of the Māori economy:
The Māori economy, under the definition we use, includes all those businesses and transactions where ‘Māoriness’ matters. It includes the activities based on collectively-owned Māori assets, the businesses of the self employed who identify as Māori, commercial transactions involving Māori culture, services oriented to specific Māori needs, as well as the housing owned by Māori.
Agriculture, fishing and owner-occupied dwellings combined were worth 75% of the output of the Māori economy in 2007. Agriculture was estimated to be $700 million, or 7.4% of New Zealand’s agricultural output. Māori controlled around 37% of New Zealand’s fishing quota which generated $299 million in fishing revenue. Māori accounted for 7% of home ownership. The value of this was around $434 million. The estimated value of Māori exports in 2000 was $650 million.
Yet in June 2009 Māori unemployment was 10% compared to 5% for non-Māori.
Despite the significant presence in agriculture, fishing and home ownership, Māori employers and entrepreneurs were increasingly diversifying in the 2000s. Māori businesses focused on tourism, fashion and film appeared.
Self-employment and entrepreneurs
In 1981 the number of self-employed Māori was 6,700. By 2001 this had increased to 17,100. Self-employment grew more strongly among Māori than non-Māori during this period, although 10% of Māori and 22% of non-Māori were self-employed. Self-employment moved away from the agricultural sector towards the service sector.
Trusts and incorporations
The two key structures developed to manage Māori interests in land were ahuwhenua trusts and Māori incorporations. In 2008 there were 129 Māori incorporations and 5,201 ahuwhenua trusts which together administered around two-thirds of Māori land. One of the larger incorporations – the Wakatū Incorporation – was valued at around $250 million in the early 2000s. Wairarapa Moana Incorporation owned assets of almost $90 million in the early 2000s, mostly forestry and farming operations.
The total value of Māori trusts and incorporations was estimated to be over $3 billion in 2005/6.
Treaty settlements and assets
The total assets held between Ngāi Tahu and Tainui were over one billion dollars in 2008. Ngāi Tahu Holdings had $600 million worth of assets under management in 2008 and Tainui Group Holdings $496 million.
In 2008 a settlement signed with a collective of central North Island iwi made up of Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whare, Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Raukawa and the Affiliate Te Arawa Iwi and Hapū was dubbed the ‘Treelords’ deal. It involved $195.7 million of Crown forest land, $223 million in rentals that had accumulated on the land since 1989, and an annual income stream of $13 million.
By 2009 Te Ohu Kaimoana, who had managed tribal fisheries whilst allocation was determined, had transferred over $440 million worth of fisheries-settlement assets to iwi.
Māori-owned commercial assets were estimated to be worth $16.5 billion in 2005/6, more than double the $7.5 billion of 2001. Māori businesses were valued at over $10 billion.