Learning to Align Maori and Pakeha Governance; Iwi Trusts and Assets Are among the Fastest Growing and Most Dynamic Sectors of the New Zealand Economy. Wiwini Hakaria Is Helping Maori Directors and Trustees Master the Rules of the Governance Game

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The total asset base of the Maori economy is reportedly now around $35 billion. The Director last year (September) reported that iwi trust investments are growing 50 percent faster than community trusts in general in New Zealand. Maoridom's assets, investments and other enterprise activities are burgeoning.

Iwi governance is, as a consequence, under pressure to build its competencies. Competent governance in the Pakeha world is rare enough, but, says Auckland-based Maori business services manager at BDO Wiwini Hakaria, Maori must deal with additional overlays of complexity.

Balancing the needs of the entity, trustees and beneficiaries with economic, cultural, spiritual and social considerations is one example. A general lack of financial literacy -- not peculiar to Maori but at this point more prevalent in its ranks -- often leads to result-versus-expectation misunderstandings. Being able to ask for assistance while still maintaining mana, pride, standing and power sometimes raises issues, as does keeping "personalities" out of the conversation when judging the merits of various opportunities.

"Actually, governance has existed in Maoridom for many years," says Hakaria. "It is just a different format. In pre-colonial days, Maori had resources and individuals who had to govern what happened with those resources to the benefit of their whanau, hapu and iwi."

Hakaria believes the terminology can be re-framed to explain the process whereby traditional forms of Maori governance are retained and effectively aligned with governance in the Pakeha sense.

Profit is not the singular objective of most Maori businesses, says Hakaria. "Consequently we need to balance up the spiritual and other needs such as providing jobs, education and social support. There are four considerations -- spiritual, economic, environment and social. The governing body must represent all of these interests. Maori boards must be sufficiently diverse and skilled to meet all these needs."

To provide an acceptable measure of effectiveness in the pragmatic commercial world in which Maori trusts and businesses must operate, the largest trusts are re-thinking board composition, says Hakaria. …