Māori business models can help rebuild the economy

A Māori business leader says Māori business models are showing the resilience needed to help rebuild the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Te Taumata chairman Chris Karamea Insley is also the chief executive of Te Arawa Fisheries and sits on a number of businesses boards across the country.

 So far, the government has spent more than $10 Billion on the wage subsidy scheme – to help keep people in jobs.  

Karamea Insley is seeing how well the low-debt borrowing model many Māori businesses follow is holding up during the lockdown.

“Universally across the board we haven’t had to lay off anywhere near Pākehā businesses have – because we’ve got this cushion in the balance.”

The business models promoted widely through New Zealand and the rest of the world is basically driven by short-termism and driving to create personal profit for individuals.

Chris Karamea Insley

Te Taumata formed six months ago and is a group focused on making sure a Māori voice is heard in trade negotiations between New Zealand and the rest of the world.

In the coming months, Karamea Insley says the government is going to be pressured by the business community to return the economy to what it was like before Covid-19.

But Insley believes the current model isn’t sustainable.

“The business models promoted widely through New Zealand and the rest of the world is basically driven by short-termism and driving to create personal profit for individuals.”

Insley Karamea understands economic wealth is important – but business needs to be driven by people –and looking after people.

He wants Māori business leaders at the table when it comes to helping to rebuild the economy and he’s already met with government ministers.

Minister for Māori Affairs Nanaia Mahuta along with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Co-Leader of the Green Party James Shaw

“We’re saying taihoa – we need to make haste but now we have opportunity to do something far better and far more enduring mai rāno (for a long time). ”

Māori businesses have proven resilient through the Covid-19 pandemic, he says because they have less debt and use their profits to run their operations.

Something companies who borrow a lot of money to survive won’t be able to survive.

“We’re going to see a lot of them go bankrupt because they can’t meet their mortgage repayments to the bank.”

Karamea Insley says most Maori businesses are prepared take a long-term approach – something he doesn’t see in mainstream business.

“They’re lucky If they got a business plan for two years – Maori organisations right now honestly have a thousand-year plan.”

Image by Kohutapu Lodge and Tribal Tours Murupara

The Māori economy is worth an estimated $50 billion and Karamea Insley says many Māori businesses are willing to diversify their portfolio across tourism, forestry, fishing and agriculture.

Image by Freek Verhoof (CC)

“This helps to spread risk.

“The risk of putting all your eggs into one basket – i.e putting all your eggs in the China basket everybody’s been locked into this.”

Although there’s no denying how big a hit Māori tourism and trade will take.”

“We have very very large Maori tourism ventures that are really doing it hard,” Karamea Insley says.

“They are going to be doing it very hard for a long time along with everyone else.”

Since the Covid-19 lockdown Karamea Insley is noticing how different iwi groups and trust boards are coming together since the lockdown.

One large scale project continuing to move ahead is a multi-million-dollar aquaculture project involving a dozen Bay of Plenty iwi.

“It creates an opportunity for us to band together.”

(Written by John Boynton – John is from Tūhoe and is currently a reporter for the current affairs show The Hui)

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