Māori business interest at NZ-China mayoral talks

By Talisa Kupenga

Māori could see a boost in business opportunities as a result of talks between New Zealand mayors and their Chinese counterparts in attendance at the New Zealand China Mayoral Forum in Wellington.

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana says "the Chinese mayors are here to talk about commerce, to talk about the opportunities that they see here in New Zealand.  In particular what they've been talking to me about are those cultural opportunities."

Mayor Tana says the forum's key topics- education, primary industries and tourism- align with some of Māoridom's biggest business sectors, which could further grow the $50-billion Māori Economy.

"Every rohe [region], every iwi has, I believe, an opportunity to grow that commerce and the infrastructure we have we should actually be putting that together.  But also I think the opportunity for our natural products, for our Manuka, for our seafood, is huge and they're ready to engage with us."

China is New Zealand's largest trading partner and the Chinese mayors collectively represent around 80 million citizens.

Gisborne mayor Meng Foon says "trade relationships are ongoing between Māori and Chinese, and Māori and Chinese businesses, because we know how to work well with one another."

China and New Zealand Business Council Co-Chair Rachael Qi says, "the Chinese and the Māori people- we have so much in common that we share.  It's about the value of innovation and vision and also the family responsibilities, the environment, the community and also for the corporate opportunities."

Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull says he expects these business relationships to strengthen in the coming years.

"All councils work with their local iwi and hapu and many are forming strong working relationships around economic development opportunities like those presented by China, particularly as iwi move into post treaty settlement stages.  It's important to have strong working partnerships and these will continue to strengthen in years to come."