It's been labelled as a "game changer" in tackling inequality for Māori in our Super City. The Auckland City Council and Te Kotahi a Tāmaki representing the 33 marae of Auckland have come together to look at levelling the playing field for Māori and PI business opportunities.
The strength of reeds bound together cannot be broken. It is a proverb being used to encourage and support Marae and Māori business through social procurement.
"This is a game changer for us to be able to grow businesses and not always rely on government grants. That is just marae, whānau businesses, hapū and iwi are still yet to play in this space," says co-chair of Te Kotahi a Tāmaki, Tania Kingi.
"It has to be a policy around indigenous procurement where we have a mandatory policy that says we will purchase this percentage of our expenditure on Māori communities creating businesses," she says.
Its about inclusion and setting targets in the procurement process that will give rise to including equal opportunities for Māori and Pacific businesses to not only grow New Zealand’s economy but also tackle the country’s growing inequality issues.
Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff says the council is working through a new initiative to make sure that contracts for major works will involve a social procurement element.
"It's an important part of the work that they're doing with Māori in Auckland. What we want to do with things like The Southern Initiative is to make sure all our kids get the best opportunity they can to get a job, to get an income, to get the skills they need to participate and enjoy what we can achieve as a city," he says.
The Southern Initiative (TSI) is a team within Auckland Council providing a place-based innovation platform that champions, stimulates, facilitates and enables social innovation in South Auckland.
TSI has worked to establish He Waka Eke Noa, a Māori and Pacific Business network to meet the need for more suppliers. The network currently has 54 member businesses, mostly in the construction industry, employing more than 850 staff, of whom 80 percent are Māori and Pacific, with many more businesses wanting to join.
In Australia, there is a federal government policy that sets targets for contracting aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned businesses.
TSI’s Tania Pouwhare says in the past two years, the amount of services procured from indigenous owned businesses in Australia rose from $6 million to almost $2 billion.
"They have a federal target that 3% of all their spend be with indigenous businesses. That demand has driven the growth of supply and you can't get away from that."
The council sees huge potential in working together with Te Kotahi a Tamaki and the tapestry of skills, services and business ideas that marae and their whānau could offer.
Head of Te Matatini 2021 for Auckland Council, Amokura Panoho say's "it allows the council to take a much more co-ordinated focused approach about where best to put our resources, our expertise and provide advice. It alows them to take a leadership role, not for us to come and tell them, as marae, what they should be doing in their own back yard."
Tapeta Wehi, founder of Te Wehi Haka Experience, also attended the meeting today and reflected on the words of Te Puea Herangi who said work together for the benefit of the people.
"We should all hold firm to the handle of this paddle and look forward to the horizon because there are great things coming to Auckland." said Wehi.
Kingi also reflected on the past saying Māori ancestors were masters of economic development through collaboration.
"We can do that again and I think this what this marae collective has the potential to do."
There are huge opportunities ahead to benefit from, with important events like APEC, the Americas Cup and Te Matatini in 2021. Currently Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta is supposedly looking to a social procurement policy. Announcements on these developments are expected by Government in July.