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New Zealand Reserve Bank Reports $69 Billion Of Assets In Māori Economy

A report released by the New Zealand Reserve Bank in January revealed that Māori businesses and non-profit organisations owned almost $NZ69 billion ($US50.2 billion) in assets as of 2018. The report, produced by economic consultancy BERL, said most of the assets of the “Māori economy” were in the private sector.

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr said the report, entitled Te Ōhanga Māori, was written before the COVID-19 pandemic but gave a snapshot of the Māori economy just before the outbreak.

Māori businesses were booming in the five years to 2018, boosted by speculation in the property market, ultra-low interest rates, and the 2008-2017 National Party government’s corporate tax cuts, which have been retained by the current Labour Party-led government.

New Zealand’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 20 percent between 2013 and 2018, but the growth for the Māori business sector was nearly double that at 37 percent. If the trend continues, the Māori economy is expected to be worth $100 billion well before 2030.

Components of the $68.7 billion include: $39.1 billion held by 9,880 firms owned by Māori employers, $8.6 billion in businesses of 18,600 self-employed Māori, and $21 billion in trusts, incorporations, and other Māori entities, including $14 billion in natural resources. Deloitte has estimated that $7.1 billion is held by large tribal organisations such as Ngāi Tahu, Waikato Tainui, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Tuhoe and Ngāti Porou.

BERL notes that the Treaty of Waitangi settlements—payments to the tribes by the state purportedly in recompense for historical crimes, including the widespread confiscation of Māori land in the nineteenth century—account for $2.2 billion in cash and assets transferred over 25 years. Of the $13.8 billion assets held by the “top tier” 120 entities, more than $7 billion is held by around 50 organisations and interests which pre-date the settlement process and benefited from it.

The figures also reveal the staggering profits accumulated by Māori businesses through the exploitation of workers of all races. Beginning with the launching of the Treaty claims process by the pro-business Lange Labour government of the 1980s, Māori businesses have flourished during an extended period of social counter-revolution. Their profitability and asset growth is the product of decades of attacks on jobs, wages, working conditions, public services and social rights of the working class.

BERL found that since 2013 Māori business activity increased in a range of industries, including construction, retail and information media. The number of Māori in employment in 2018 totalled 329,200, an increase of over 105,200, or 47 percent, since 2013, along with a 46 percent increase in the number of Māori employers.

A high proportion of Māori business assets, more than $23 billion, derive from agriculture, fishing and forestry, including $2.9 billion in fishing and aquaculture and $4.3 billion in forestry ventures. Another $17 billion is held in property. Māori entities, such as tribal businesses, have considerable investments in industrial, commercial, and residential property totalling $4.8 billion, all deriving income from the overheated property market.

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