Māori economy: Report seeks Govt support to boost Auckland Māori businesses

The first-ever stocktake of Auckland’s $12.5 billion Māori economy has triggered a call for more government support to accelerate the growth of Māori-owned businesses.

Te Ōhanga Māori i Tāmaki Makaurau, a report by research house BERL, found the only part of the Māori economy almost matching non-Māori was business owner income.

Auckland Council’s Southern Initiative unit (TSI), which commissioned the work, said as the city emerged from three months of Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions, “Māori still tend to be clustered in low paid work that is vulnerable to economic shocks”.

“The pandemic restrictions over the last two years have fallen on the shoulders of Tāmaki Makaurau, and have hit the south and West Auckland first and hardest,” general manager Tania Pouwhare said.

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“What this means for whānau is a sharp decline in household incomes and a long, painful trudge back to the starting line which could take decades.”

An artist’s impression of an Auckland Council-proposed "Eco Park" of reycling and circular economy businesses, phase two of a plan to boost the number of Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses in the south and west.

MAU Studios/Supplied

An artist’s impression of an Auckland Council-proposed “Eco Park” of reycling and circular economy businesses, phase two of a plan to boost the number of Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses in the south and west.

The report zoomed in on Tāmaki Makaurau following BERL’s nationwide assessment of the Māori economy which covered tribal assets, private businesses, and households’ assets and incomes.

It found overall, there had been employment gains and general economic growth in Auckland.

However, “Māori households spend considerably more than their income because they simply don’t earn enough”, it said.

Tania Pouwhare is the general manager of community and social innovation at Auckland Council.

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Tania Pouwhare is the general manager of community and social innovation at Auckland Council.

“Māori home ownership, which provides an asset and greater security of tenure and stability for whānau, is lowest in Tāmaki Makaurau than anywhere else in the country.”

That, along with “in-work poverty”, was exacerbating the need for government assistance, which Pouwhare said showed that concentrating on getting people into jobs wasn’t the answer.

The proportion of Māori in higher-skilled work in Auckland was only 39 per cent, compared with non-Māori at 46 per cent.

That was lower than the nationwide share of Māori workers in higher-skilled jobs, at 65 per cent.

Powhare said poor jobs kept people poor.

“Shuffling people from jobless poverty to in-work poverty is not just morally reprehensible, but is a false economy.”

Business owners’ income was the only near-match between non-Māori and Māori in Auckland.

BERL/Supplied

Business owners’ income was the only near-match between non-Māori and Māori in Auckland.

The report found $11.1 billion of the $12.5b Māori-owned asset base in Tāmaki Makaurau was in the hands of private businesses and the self-employed.

Iwi and trusts held the balance of $1.4b.

The other promising sign, Pouwhare said, was that Māori entreneurship, while still small, was the fastest-growing sector in the Māori labour market.

“This is a glimpse of the potential of Māori businesses – imagine what would be possible if roadblocks and biases against them were removed,” she said.

Pouwhare said the kind of support that would make a difference was Auckland Council and central government putting more business towards Māori and Pasifika-owned firms.

The unit had also submitted a bid to the government for next year’s budget seeking an investment fund for Māori and Pasifika-owned firms in Auckland’s south and west, to expand a network of recycling and “circular economy” businesses.

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