Te Arawa sets vision to be major employer of iwi descendants

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Te Arawa hopes to become a major employer of iwi descendants within the next 30 years. The aim is part of a new long-term strategy called Te Arawa Vision 2050. It includes Te Arawa-run businesses providing employment for its people locally, an iwi-owned bank, its own Silicon Valley and restoration of the environment.

Te Taru White of the group Te Arawa Vision 2050 says, "It's a document that looks at where we've come from, who we are, and casting those wise words that our ancestors gave to us, and casting and shaping a vision of the future for us all."

"A group of people within Te Arawa, took it upon themselves to consider that our future needs to be transformative," explains White.

"It needs to be a future that our rangatahi can pick up and roll with, but it needed to be founded on who we are and where we come from. And then look at that future that breaks us from the system, that creates our sort of tino rangatiratanga, our own space, our own systems.

"At the end of the day, we have come up with this document that is really grounded in a strong process of connection with our people," he says.

It involved kaumātua and rangatahi coming together, as one could not be included without the other.

"We had to match and marry our aspirations of our koeke, our rangatahi, our wāhine, our tāne. All the iwi, hapū connections that we've made over the last year-and-a-half has been one big challenge, but it's been absolutely necessary to have a document that we can aspire to.

"We're made up of hapū and iwi, mate, and if you haven't got that you've got nothing," White says.

When creating this initiative, values were at the centre and focus of doing things like establishing their own bank. In fact, White seems to welcome the challenges it presents.

"They're exciting transformational issues for us and that's the idea of this vision as well: be transformational. Not business as usual, not captured by the system. 

"So a bank, for example, why do we need to put significant resources of our land trusts and incorporations into a mainstream bank? It gets repatriated overseas. Why can we not turn those deposits into our own banking system, turn them around to fund our housing and business needs? It's a Māori circular economy that Te Arawa aspires to. 

"I can tell you now, it's in plan and in motion," White says confidently.