Speech to ANZLF Virtual Indigenous Business Trade and Connections Event

Trade and Export Growth

I acknowledge our whānau overseas, joining us from Te Whenua Moemoeā, and I wish to pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you all today. I am very pleased to be part of the conversation on Indigenous business, and part of an event that facilitates relationship building between Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australian Indigenous businesses.

I came in to my role at a time of great challenge for businesses. Against the backdrop of increasing threats to the global trading system and rising protectionism in our key markets, we now also face an uncertain headwind that none of us could have seen coming - COVID-19.

The measures taken in response to the pandemic have hindered our ability to hono – connect -, in person. But I am encouraged by events like this, which acknowledge the importance of hononga – connections -, and facilitate the collaboration of Indigenous businesses across the Tasman.

Connections put people in a position to work together to effect change at higher levels. Establishing relationship links between Māori and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples allow us to share best practice approaches and learnings that benefit both our countries and improve the lives of our people.  I hope that the joint Australia and New Zealand indigenous business mission to South East Asia can be picked up again, once we are able to do so, to further strengthen indigenous connections internationally.

Today’s event focuses on Indigenous Tourism. In Aotearoa, 17% of Māori employment is concentrated in the hospitality and tourism sector. The Māori tourism industry is significant, with over 537 Māori tourism businesses in Aotearoa, and a pre-covid GDP of just over $975 million.

The impacts of COVID-19 are especially being felt in the tourism industry, with no international tourists and uncertainties around domestic travel. I have seen this first-hand in my own electorate where the tourism industry creates many jobs for Māori. These are tough times, but through investing in our people and businesses we can help indigenous tourism adapt and take advantage of the strong health responses of our countries.

Indigenous partnerships have been at the forefront of this Government’s mind. You will have heard from Minister Mahuta and Minister Wyatt last week about the Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement, and the role that plays in promoting indigenous peoples’ agency, culture, economy and well-being.

Minister Mahuta asked me to continue this mahi – work - to help to position Māori to lead international efforts to expand the participation of indigenous people in global trade, including through the expansion of inclusive trade policies, rules and cooperation with our trade partners.

Among participants in this event, there are large-scale Indigenous businesses, but there are also Small and Medium Enterprises. Trans-Tasman business connections are important for all businesses, but especially for those SMEs where often they look across the Tasman as a first venture in to the international market.

One of the things that government can do to help is to improve our data and insights. Recent studies in Aotearoa have significantly improved our understanding of the scope of the Māori economy, Māori SMEs and entrepreneurship.

The first of these was a study released by Te Puni Kōkiri, our Ministry of Māori Development called Te Matapaeroa 2019. It confirmed the existence of over 10,000 Māori-owned business, and 14,700 Māori sole traders across a wide number of goods and services sectors. It also confirmed what we all knew intuitively to be true - that Māori owned businesses employ more Māori, and in fact, at three times the rate of non-Māori businesses, which lifts our whānau—family- incomes and contributes to community well-being.

Another recent study, Te Ōhanga Māori 2018, highlighted that from 2013 to 2018 the Māori population grew approximately four times the rate of non-Māori. This corresponds with a significant lift in the Māori working age population, and work force. Whilst Māori still suffer from relatively high and entrenched un-employment, there is a very positive story emerging around entrepreneurship, with the numbers of Māori self-employed increasing at five times the rate of non-Māori, and the rate of Māori employers increasing ten times more than non-Māori.

I am hopeful that, in these numbers, we are starting to see the benefits of higher education and aspiring entrepreneurship re-emerge in our Maori economy. At the same time, we know that Māori business people still cite difficulty accessing business support from national and local government. I believe we have much to do to improve this, so we can respond to the aspiration from our rangatahi entrepreneurs.

Small business growth is important, and we look approvingly towards the work that Australia has done on indigenous procurement and the impact that it has had. I understand, from your Supply Nation, that new SMEs are registering at truly impressive rates, and we intend to follow in your steps.

Of course, domestic SME growth creates a platform for further development through exporting and trade. Trade is a critical part of Aotearoa-New Zealand and Australia’s joint economic recovery. The Honourable David Parker launched the Trade Recovery Strategy in June 2020, a strategy that helps to put New Zealand in the best possible position to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Part of this is recalibrating our trade policy to the new international environment.

Underpinning the Trade Recovery Strategy is New Zealand’s Trade for All agenda. This initiative is an opportunity to consider trade policy in general, what we are currently doing, and making sure it delivers for all New Zealanders. Our goal with this is that will work alongside other government policies, to support sustainable and inclusive economic development. 

New Zealand has also taken our hosting of APEC as an opportunity to further advance the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, perspectives and experiences in the region’s trade and economic policy settings. One of the pou - core areas -, to progress this is through creating a platform for Indigenous connections internationally.

New Zealand and Australian Trade Ministers met recently and are committed to meeting in person as soon as travel allows, to discuss trade and our joint economic recoveries.  In my role you can expect me to continue to champion international indigenous partnerships. I look forward to supporting the work of this Forum to lift opportunities for Māori businesses and engagement with Indigenous businesses in Australia.

Thank you.