Te reo making strides in the business world (NZ Herald)

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(Adrian Evans | New Zealand Herald) It may not be the lingua franca of the business world but te reo Maori is finding a place at the business table as some groups aim to build relationships with commercial iwi interests.

Deloittes senior accountant Leon Wijohn says some organisations are recognising the benefits of a little cultural understanding.

As Maori businesses grow they are going to look for the best professionals, the right people for the job. But if there are two people of equal ability going for the job then iwi organisations will look at what other things they have done, such as their track record with Maori. There’s a list of layers that come into play when it comes to choosing one over the other.”

Ngati Whatua spokesperson and Supercity CCO member Ngarimu Blair encouraged some cultural competency but not at the expense of ones personal decorum.

As iwi we encourage all people to learn te reo. Any cultural understanding goes a long way to building relationships but at the same time it doesn’t need to be forced. The last thing we want to see is anyone butcher their way through a mihi.”

Blair is in no doubt that te reo deserves a seat at the business table.

“In a business sense it’s always beneficial to know who you’re dealing with and I think if organisations are willing to take on te reo they’d gain some cultural understanding and see what we’re about.”

Given the increasing size of assets held by Maori organisations, and the fact they won’t be relocating overseas, they make attractive business partners.

According to Blair, te reo is the key for the private sector seeking business with Maori organisations, in order that true commercial value is created.

“For successful business partnerships to flourish they have to understand Maori and that is linked to te reo,” says Blair.

One such partnership that is flourishing with te reo is the new shopping mall ‘Te Awa’ on Hamilton’s outskirts. The new mall is the latest addition at Te Rapa’s shopping destination ‘The Base’ and is part of the move into the retail sector by local iwi Tainui.

The Tainui Group Holdings project has grown from strength and has won the praises of shoppers and tenants with its use of te reo signage and cultural design.

Once completed, The Base will be New Zealand’s largest retail centre covering 80,000 square metres of retailing space and will provide 770 fulltime and 760 part-time jobs, making it one of the country’s largest employers.

“The vision was to create a very unique and modern shopping experience that incorporates some strong cultural and Waikato-Tainui identification,” says TGH property manager Nathan York.

York sees the use of te reo and other cultural symbols as viable options within the retail sector and encourages more businesses to take up the idea.

“Other organisations could identify projects and integrate what they feel is appropriate for their own needs.”

Blair says that in order to get an edge over competitors businesses should improve their understanding at all levels.

“In a situation where one business is trying to partner with an iwi organisation, the thing that may give one business an edge over another will be their ability to relate to Maori as partners understanding not just at a commercial level but at all levels. Separating two candidates on the basis of their cultural understanding makes perfect commercial sense.”

By Adrian Evans

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