Apr 21, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

New Book Looks at Northern Maori Economic History – Financial

3 min read

An Auckland Business School researcher has released a new book challenging some commonly held ideas about Maori economic activities in the Far North over the past 200 years.

Adrienne Puckey, research fellow with the Mira Szaszy Research Centre for Maori and Pacific Economic Development, will launch her book ‘Trading Cultures A History of the Far North’ at a special Business School celebration of Maori business history on Thursday.

The book focuses on Maori economic activities, questioning how the Far North started out as a bread basket in the late 1700s to become an economic basket case by the 1990s.

It fills a gap in economic history texts, Adrienne says, and clearly shows how Maori engaged with an introduced economy that appeared similar to its own yet differed in underlying values.

Although the Far North is used as the case study, the findings apply more widely in the north and possibly in other rural areas, she says.

Far-northern Maori encouraged European settlement as the basis for a new economy, but as settler numbers and trade increased after 1840, the European and Maori economic systems collided over differences between gift, barter and money exchanges and distributions, Adrienne says.

The Far North wasnt swamped by Europeans, which makes looking back on trading relations easier, and Maori in the area werent involved in the Northern Wars or the New Zealand Wars.

The economy was fuelled by a large kauri logging and gum industry, the area was remote from markets and had poor transport. The book counters the view of early success followed by failure, and shows extensive Maori participation in a wide variety of the regions recognised commercial and industrial sectors, she says.

It also treats the informal (non-money) economy and social capital as an integral part of the economic system, and views the economy as a social system.

Adrienne says the book is a social, economic and political history that provides fresh insights into how and why Maori and Pakeha in this area related, traded and interacted with each other.

The book is not Maori history as Maori would write it, and does not try to write from that perspective, she says. However, I have taken up mentor Judith Binneys challenge to historians to be bi-historical, and sought to show the negotiations that took place to deal with the challenges of two centuries of unprecedented change.

From her work writing histories for Waitangi Tribunal claims, Adrienne says concentrating on what went wrong in the past 200 years can overshadow the enormous effort and energy Maori put into trying to make things go right.

The Business Schools Maori Business Leaders Awards acknowledge the role models operating in todays business environment, she says, but lets not overlook the enterprising ancestors, both men and women.

Maori were essential to the development of this countrys rural economy described as the backbone of the country as farmers, in commercial fishing, logging, transport, kauri-gum trading and much more.

Born and raised in Kaitaia, Adriennes motivation for researching the book comes from a commitment to the Treaty her great-great-grandfather signed as a witness and a deep concern for the economic plight of the north.

A chartered accountant and MBA, Adrienne has worked in business development, strategic planning and financial accounting, both in New Zealand and overseas. Since completing her PhD in history on Maori and Pakeha political economic relations between 1860 and 1940, she has co-written background histories for Ngapuhi Treaty claims.

Her other publications include chapters in Living Legacy: A History of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland and The Spirit of the Past: Essays on Christianity in New Zealand History (Victoria University Press (forthcoming).


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