Culture and commerce: A unique Kiwi twist on how we can trade … – Stuff

Credit: Original article can be found here

Jason Mika is an associate professor at Te Raupapa Waikato Management School and Te Kotahi Research Institute, University of Waikato.

OPINION: Doing business internationally right now is tough. War in Ukraine, the toll of a global pandemic, rising food and energy costs, and an ominous feeling that climate change impacts are nearer and more devastating than we’d like to admit.

A trend unhelpful to trade is also unfolding, in academic parlance it’s called autarky. This odd little word means countries are becoming more self-sufficient as insurance against unavoidable shortages.

Admidst such troubling signs, the New Zealand government is trying to shore up our ability to ride out multiple storms under the Trade Recovery Strategy 2.0. Making sure trade benefits everyone, lifting our exporters’ capability, expediting free trade agreements, and diversifying our overseas markets are some of these measures.

* Diving into mātauranga Māori to find an 800-year-old solution for 70-year-old problem
* NZ-UK free trade deal ‘game changing’ for the Māori economy
* The Treaty of Waitangi, and a Māori worldview are taking a greater role in shaping how we interact with the world

We can only hope that this is enough because, as former minister Shane Jones bluntly puts it, “we cannot pay for our imports without exports”. So trade we must.

One bright light to emerge is Māori aspirations to once again become a formidible force in our little country’s trading prowess. The heyday of the Māori economy’s ability to trade was probably between 1820 and 1850 when tribal chiefs were the captains of industry in Aotearoa, according to historian Hazel Petrie.

Their command of hapū afforded unrivaled access to an industrious labourforce and the chiefs success in adapting European tools and crops saw their tribes owning and operating mills and trading goods internationally on Māori owned ships.

Admiration for native ingeneuity turned to envy. A new narrative pervaded the Pākehā colonists that Māori were an inferior people ill equipped to turn a profit from their untamed lands–such lands were better off in the hands of colonists and their newly formed parliament set about making that happen through the New Zealand wars and land confiscations.

One-hundred and eighty two years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, our country is slowing coming to terms with our unfortunate past. We are learning about what might have been had we managed to find a way to reconcile Māori rights and interests in taonga tuku iho (treasures handed down) and mana motuhake (tribal autonomy) with the new state.

The heyday of the Māori economy was probably when tribal chiefs were the captains of industry, but Māori aspirations may once again become a formidible force in trade, Jason Mika writes. (File photo)

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The heyday of the Māori economy was probably when tribal chiefs were the captains of industry, but Māori aspirations may once again become a formidible force in trade, Jason Mika writes. (File photo)

Everything we now desire in business and society might have been: sustainable and inclusive trade, environmental sustainability, fair and equitable access to opportunity and outcomes. Instead, we are constrained by legacies of believing there was only one right way and that way was not the Māori way.

Today, unlocking the innovation potential of mātauranga Māori or Māori knowledge is not a niche concern of scientists and economists, but mainstream business too. Air New Zealand’s bold use of te reo Māori in customer-facing roles, Waka Kotahi’s partnering with Māori on large roading projects, and the Reserve Bank’s adaptation of te ao Māori frameworks suggest a Māori approach to doing business is becoming more prevalent.

Imagine this: an approach to business where managers are kaitiaki (stewards) who manage taonga (treasures) not people, whose success is measured in mana, not your own, but how much of someone else’s you uplift. In this view, wealth is not measured in how much you accumulate, but how much you give, and the definition of triple bottom-line performance is mauri (wellbeing).

While intuitively incomprehensible, all the Māori and Pākehā filling up the te reo Māori courses will soon have the linguistic capacity to engage meaningfully with these concepts. The most exciting of these notions is reciprocity, known as tauutuutu according to my colleague Dr John Reid and manahau for me, which builds on the late Mānuka Hēnare’s idea of an economy of mana.

Now trade is a fairly generic activity, involving the buying, selling, and distributing of goods and services across borders. When you inject trade with mātauranga Māori and a Māori approach to doing business, you get something different. You get a kiwi twist on how we can trade with the world underpinned by a unique balance of culture and commerce.

Jason Mika is an associate professor at Te Raupapa Waikato Management School and Te Kotahi Research Institute, University of Waikato. (File photo)


Jason Mika is an associate professor at Te Raupapa Waikato Management School and Te Kotahi Research Institute, University of Waikato. (File photo)

Make no mistake, Māori entrepreneurs are interested in making a profit for enterprise viability, but why and how they do this and who benefits can be decidedly different. Providing opportunities for whānau, retaining ancestral lands, preserving the environment, utilsing whānau knowledge, capabilities, and assets, and achieving intergenerational equity and wellbeing are aspirations.

Māori entrepreneurs are using mātauranga Māori and Pākehā knowledge to develop world-class enterprises. Agrisea, Robotics Plus, and New Zealand Bio Forestry are three Māori enterprises utilising mātauranga and science to transform products and consumer experiences.

Last week (11 October 2022), Te Taumata, the Māori trade advisory board, held an historic national hui on global trade and Māori at parliament. Hosted by foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta and trade and export growth minister Damien O’Connor, the hui was attended by around 200 delegates.

Te Taumata chair Chris Insley summed up the day with three key insights. First, trade for Māori is about relationships. Second, relationships start with a cultural exchange not an economic one. Third, once established trade becomes a gateway to other valued forms of cooperation.

While we might assume that Te Taumata owes its existence to a benevolent state, like many prior arguments about Māori rights its formation was a response to the Crown being taken to task in the Waitangi Tribunal on Māori treaty rights under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The tribunal called on the foreign affairs and trade ministry to do more than merely consult, they must engage with Māori as treaty partners.

Claimaint group Ngā Toki Whakarururanga, whose co-leaders are Pita Tipene and Moana Maniapoto, was acknowledged at the hui for its role in ensuring the Crown fulfils its treaty obligations to Māori on trade policy.

While the outlook for global trade is gloomy, conditions for Indigenous trade are favourable. Evidence of this is in Te Taumata pushing for an equitable share of trade for Māori, Ngā Toki Whakarurunga keeping the Crown honest, Indigenous trade chapters in free trade agreements, a ministry increasingly comfortable working with Māori, and international trade partners who want what Māori have to offer–good quality kiwi goods and services.

On the strength of a $69 billion Māori economy dominated by farming, forestry, and fishing, economist Hillmarè Schulze estimates Māori exports were worth $3.4 billion in 2012. Māori enterprises want to do more, but are constrained by access to capital, the need for more Māori managers with cultural and commercial acumen, and a science system that values and protects mātauranga Māori.

While recent Indigenous collaboration arrangements with Canada, Australia, and Chinese Taipei are lauded, inter-Indigenous trade is something that Te Puni Kōkiri’s Te Taru White and Tradenz’s Arama Kukutai initiated in 1995 when they visited Canada.

The result was a delegation of First Nations business leaders who traversed New Zealand by bus meeting Māori enterprises. As a young TPK policy analyst, I was fortunate to be on that bus.

Long term cultural and commercial relationships were formed, but Kukutai and White wanted more: Māori trade commmissioners. Bruce Shepherd, Anaru French, Tui Te Hau, and Rachel Taulelei formed the backbone of the Māori export team at Tradenz and later became trade comissioners. Now as a Te Taumata board member, White called for more Māori in diplomatic postings.

With memories of the 1984 Hui Taumata wafting through the Banquet Hall, an unstated aim is that the global trade hui evokes a similar energy for Indigenous trade.

Oftentimes, we turned to the youth contingent of the hui, knowing our future will soon lie in their hands. E tika ana te kōrero, ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi–when the old net withers, the new net goes fishing. As with the All Blacks though a combination of youth and experience might be our best bet.