Tauranga will play host to the inaugural national conference for Maori Business Networks next month.
Chairman of the host organisation Te Manawa Pou Tahi – the Tauranga Maori Business Association – Buddy Mikaere said the conference was a big step forward for the many Maori businesses that have sprung up in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty in recent years.
“Maori are particularly adept and comfortable in working to a cooperative model and this might be something which could be turned to a real business advantage through networking,” said Mikaere.
He said the Maori sectors of the economy, while heavily reliant on the traditional primary sector activities of farming, forestry, fishing and more recently horticulture, have also established a vibrant property investment component and some of the larger iwi organisations like Tainui and Ngai Tahu are big players in those activities.
At the other end of the scale, however, Maori remain locked into unskilled and semi-skilled labour in manufacturing, manual labour, construction and similar.
“What is missing is a strong Maori presence in that area where most other New Zealand businesses are found – small to medium business enterprises. These businesses provide a large part of the engine driving the New Zealand economy,” said Mikaere.
One aim of the conference is to assist in building the Maori SME sector by bringing in expert advisers and successful Maori SME operators to share their knowledge and experience.
The conference will be opened by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples.
On that note, 17 of New Zealand's finest Maori-owned food and beverage producers banded together to launch the Indigenous New Zealand Cuisine Cluster at the end of July.
The Indigenous New Zealand Cuisine Cluster is an initiative set up by Poutama Trust to market and sell Maori food and beverage products in New Zealand and internationally.