By Geoff Vause
The recent Treaty settlement for Wairarapa iwi is a regional game changer, and one key player says Rangitane will learn from other iwi in management of the $32.5 million redress.
Mavis Mullins told community leaders at the Economic Development Conference at Carterton yesterday it was a significant time for the whole region, and the opportunity may never come again.
Ms Mullins said Rangitane o Wairarapa and Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua negotiated “relatively quickly” in what was a “difficult and debilitating experience” to get agreement with the Crown, and now wanted to move forward into a prosperous future through careful management.
She said they were considering Ngai Tahu’s approach, which was now shifting back toward the people with a strong wealth base built from a large corporate approach, as well as challenges less successful iwi had faced managing their settlements.
“We will be looking at what to do better,” Ms Mullins told the conference.
“Rangitane won’t be precious about who sits at the table. It will be whoever is best suited to the job including non-Maori.”
She said the settlement process showed her the complex and often unpleasant world Maori negotiators have had to engage in, but she gained a better understanding of the whakapapa of the region as a result.
“We were able to engage with cross-claimants as well, leading to economic relationships with them.”
Heading the post-settlement governance entity Tu Mai Ra, Ms Mullins said if the next steps were considered carefully Rangitane would be able to boost income as well as assets.
She said Rangitane aimed to help Wairarapa become a leader for provincial New Zealand.
“To be vibrant, we need vibrant communities,” she said.
Maori demographics showed a “youthful bubble” with a larger population of young who would prove an asset to the region.
“We need to understand what the Maori economy is and what it can offer the region.
“In the Wairarapa it is driven by the primary sector and has a rural base.”
Nationally, the Maori population is around 15 per cent, while the Wairarapa was slightly higher at 17 per cent. The Maori economy was valued at more than $42 billion across the nation, and most of the Maori asset base was in small and medium enterprises.
“For example, many Maori small businesses are foodies, and collectively they have strong export potential especially teamed with bigger players aimed at international niche markets.
“We can help with processes, compliance, branding – we can help with all of it, and include non-Maori business people as well.”