Māori Brand seen as Path to Prosperity

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A carved kanohi (face) representing all the tribes of Aotearoa peers from the bow of the waka Ngatokimatawhaorua at Hobson's Beach at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo: Kenny Rodger

Kia ora to Yvonne Tahana, of the NZ Herald, for this story.

Cutting out the “cannibalism” by bringing businesses together under a “Māori brand” could be one way to strengthen the economy, Ngahiwi Tomoana believes. Tomoana is a member of an economic taskforce set up this year by Māori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to find ways iwi can avoid the worst of future recessions. It is also looking to make the Māori economy less vulnerable.

Tomoana is deputy chairman of Te Ohu Kaimoana, which oversees much of Māoridom’s 35 per cent stake in the fishing industry. The sector brings in $1.2 billion annually and is a place where he says the brand could make a big mark.

“We own all these fishing assets yet there’s not one Māori brand we can market it under. There’s Sealords, there’s Aotearoa Fisheries, Ngāi Tahu’s got their own brand and so do the other 50 odd companies.”

He will test the idea at a World Trade Expo in Shanghai next year.

Tomoana said trademarking “Māori” as a brand had the potential to add much more value to the $400 million worth of Maori fishing earnings. It was worth remembering the All Blacks remain the country’s most famous brand.

“The most famous part of their brand is the haka. We need to use the Māoriness that others use. Everyone wants to do the haka now but we aren’t grabbing it ourselves.”

The worst thing about having no single marketing tool for Māori products was that there was the potential for undercutting.

“What we do know is that the mussel industry is cannibalising itself at home before the product even gets off overseas. It gets the worst return because there’s no national brand – they’re cutting each other’s throats.”

The taskforce has $10 million Government funding over two years.

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