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Published: 2014-11-06 00:00:00

Leveraging off the strength of the Māori economy in Waikato is important for maximising the region’s growth potential, says a new report from Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL).

Māori economy in the Waikato region, due to be discussed at a Māori economic development workshop in Hamilton on 11 November, was commissioned by the Federation of Māori Authorities, Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) and Waikato Regional Council to help inform discussion on the way ahead.

Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne said the report shone a light on the significant contribution of the Māori economy to Waikato and will be a useful input to implementation of the regional economic development strategy.

Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite said her ministry intends that the report will “assist in the development of robust strategies and resilient relationships, and will contribute to strengthening Māori economic development in the region”.

Federation of Māori Authorities chief executive Te Horipo Karaitiana said the report provides important base information and successful deployment of initiatives will require collaboration. “Central and local government, Māori asset holders and business leaders need to work together to create sustainable economic prosperity for our whānau, communities, the region and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The report identifies Māori assets in the Waikato worth $6.2 billion and notes the Māori contribution to regional gross domestic product was worth $1.4 billion or 8 per cent of the total in 2012, with potential for growth in both figures identified.

A recent Waikato regional economic development strategy, produced under the auspices of the Waikato Mayoral Forum, identified leveraging Māori development as a major opportunity for the region.

The report says: “Māori economic development is important not only for Māori but for the overall economic performance of the Waikato region and New Zealand as a whole.

“For the economy of the Waikato region to achieve its long-run potential growth it must make the best use of all available resources.”

Of the $6.2 billion in Waikato Māori assets, 28 per cent were in agriculture, fishing and forestry, 23 per cent in property and business services, and 15 per cent in manufacturing. Māori businesses had 54 per cent of the Māori asset base, while some $2.8 billion worth – or 46 per cent - were collectively owned assets held by authorities such as trusts, incorporations and Treaty of Waitangi settlement entities.

The $1.4 billion annual contribution to value added (a measure of output) by Māori businesses included a $266 million contribution from the health and community services sector, $214 million from property and business services, $150 million from manufacturing and $120 million from agriculture. Māori businesses in Hamilton contributed $472 million or 34 per cent of the total.

Māori made up 22 per cent of the population and contributed 25 per cent of all those employed. But the report noted a large proportion of Māori were employed in low paid, low productivity industries, while the average weekly income for Māori was 25 per cent or $189 lower than the average weekly income for non-Māori (compared to 22 per cent lower nationally). Debt levels in Māori households in the region were described as “high”.

An executive summary of the report says Māori assets in Waikato are expected to grow as a result of further Treaty settlements and Waikato-Tainui receiving further redress. This growth, coupled with economic diversification by Māori entities, meant “Waikato Māori are increasingly likely to play a key part in shaping economic development in the region”.

However, the executive summary added: “The young Māori population in the Waikato region combined with the significant proportion of Māori employed in lower paid and low productive industries represents a challenge to iwi and the region to both retain, upskill and create employment opportunities for these young people.”

The full report and the summary report will be available online www.tpk.govt.nz/in-print/our-publications/ on 11 November.