FOMA focused on helping Māori prosper and grow

By Regan Paranihi

Māori entrepreneurs have gathered in Nelson for the annual Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA) conference.

The gathering of some of Maoridom's brightest business minds is focused on strategies to help Māori prosper and grow.

FOMA chairperson Traci Houpapa says the organisation has been active in developing both local and offshore business opportunities for Māori.

"FOMA and the British High Commission are strategic partners. We're working together with regards to how Māori and the British High Commission can start looking more at trade and export opportunities. We've recognised too that with the passage of change that the exit from Brexit will have on markets and trade and export."

Haupapa says it is a forum that allows like-minded people to pave a better future for Māoridom.

"The domestic market is critically important and you see that with the 300 people that we have at the FOMA conference now. We also recognise too, that as a people and as an economy, we need to look at how we trade and export with other like-minded organisations and entities and markets that share the same vision and value as us."

FOMA has been over 30 years in the making and Ratahi Cross says there are many benefits that have come out of the organisation.

"The most important victory for FOMA was the tax status, which was fought for by the original CEO Paul Morgan, which is around a 70% tax rate that we have for Māori trusts and that's been a great relief for Māori. And if you work it out mathematically now as to what they would have a value of, and that's close to about $30 billion in tax relief to Māori trusts."

He also says it has given Māori a voice at the top table.

"Māori don't want to trade just one product. So if Māori are involved in sheep and beef, they've also got an involvement in fish, an involvement in some 'hort' (horticulture) and so they want to take their whole basket and sell their basket. And so that's a totally different way of looking at trade to mainstream trade, which says I'm trading meat only, I'm trading fish only, I'm trading fruit only, I'm trading veggies only. Māori don't do that, they trade the whole basket," Cross says.

Houpapa says government has a role to play in smoothing the path for business.

"We also think that government should start to review and change policies and regulations to ensure that smaller to medium size enterprise businesses don't have to grapple with the weight and time and cost of overbearing and unnecessary compliance."

FOMA says the organisation allows room and growth for the next generation of Māori entrepreneurs.