Maori development ‘vital to NZ’ (Dominion Post)

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Prime Minister John Key believes Maori businesses can capitalise on the major world sporting events New Zealand will host over the next 18 months.

Mr Key, in Hamilton this week to visit iwi organisations during Maori Language Week, said iwi and Maori business leaders were “very encouraged” by the prospects presented by the Rowing World Championships later this year, and the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Mr Key said Maori economic development was vital to New Zealand.

Maori had “a lot of resources heavily targeted at the primary sector”, but he also identified tourism and a unique Maori experience as being crucial opportunities.

The hosting of the 2010 World Rowing Championships at Karapiro in Waikato “was a great opportunity to show the rest of New Zealand what we can do during the Rugby World Cup”, Mr Key said.

He expected tourists would be fascinated by the options in New Zealand, which ranged from entertainment and kapa haka to food and indigenous experiences.

Mr Key said the Government had made an investment in Maori tourism with a $4.5 million injection into Te Puni Kokiri as part of its last Budget, funding that was on top of $30m of general tourism funding.

Speaking to Maori business and community leaders at a breakfast function at Waikato University yesterday morning, Mr Key said Maori economic development was evolving rapidly.

That was “primarily a result of the treaty settlement process that has got momentum”, as well as the significant economic wealth tied up in iwi, particularly Waikato-Tainui.

There was a new “sophistication among runanga (governors) managing those (iwi) assets”, and Mr Key singled out Tainui’s The Base development as outstanding.

New Zealand would not succeed without Maori economic development, he said, noting the growing Maori population in the future workforce.

“That’s where the grunt of New Zealand is,” he said. “So we need to get that right.”

Mr Key identified “unique aspects” of Maori business, including long-term ownership and the “integration of culture and history in brands”.

“In terms of Maori business, I think we’re on exactly the right track,” he said, anticipating a huge demand for New Zealand goods and services where Maori businesses were closely involved.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, accompanying Mr Key on his visit, said the two parties had held summits around the country tackling Maori economic and unemployment issues.

“Iwi are progressing very well. I predict in 10 years time, iwi will be major players in infrastructure they’ll no longer be driving the bulldozer, they’ll be owning the road,” Dr Sharples said.

Dr Sharples will take 20 Maori entrepreneurs to Shanghai, China, shortly.

Craig Muntz, director of tourism firm Aotearoa Experience, said acknowledgement of the need for Maori economic development and education was “absolutely vital”.

Mr Muntz said there was great potential for businesses offering “authentic Maori experiences” and eco-tourism.

“It’s a point of difference in the international marketplace, and a strong competitive advantage for this country,” Mr Muntz said.

He said Dr Sharples’ long involvement with Maori arts and culture, and Mr Key’s role as Tourism Minister, were positive aspects for Maori business.

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