Attending the Te Hekenga II Conference was valuable in being able to share and hear views regarding Maori Businesses. The weekend discussions revolved around different businesses, their views and of course being election time - what the politicians could do for our businesses. The speakers were absolutely riveting in their delivery and ideas. Innovation, collaboration and having strategic sense of mind were some of the themes that I gained as a result of attending. Te Ururoa Flavell attended the dinner, we had a local Zumba crew come in to recharge the conference and a trip to a local water theme park made the conference dynamic and interesting. It was fantastic to see local schools attend and have input too. Here is my speech below.

Attending the Te Hekenga II Conference was valuable in being able to share and hear views regarding Maori Businesses. The weekend discussions revolved around different businesses, their views and of course being election time - what the politicians could do for our businesses. The speakers were absolutely riveting in their delivery and ideas. Innovation, collaboration and having strategic sense of mind were some of the themes that I gained as a result of attending. Te Ururoa Flavell attended the dinner, we had a local Zumba crew come in to recharge the conference and a trip to a local water theme park made the conference dynamic and interesting. It was fantastic to see local schools attend and have input too. Here is my speech below.

Brent Reihana  Maori Business Network Sydney         Address to Te Hekenga II Conference Tauranga New Zealand 19 September 2014      

Taku waka ko Ngatokimatawhaorua

Taku maunga ko Puhanga Tohora

E rere mai ana nga awa ko Mangatawa me Otaua

ki taku marae ko Pukerata

Taku hapu ko Ngaitu Te Auru

Taku iwi ko Ngapuhi nui tonu

Aku matua ko Paul me Edna Reihana

Ko Brent Reihana ahau

I’d like to acknowledge the opportunity that has been given to us today to meet and discuss what is essentially, the basis for the future of Maori business. Today my discussion will introduce Australia as a network, its history, rationale, some examples of our businesses and the sorts of activities we’re involved in, our business models and how New Zealand interacts with Australia and Australian Maori organisations.


According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics census information from 2011, 64,152 people living in Australia identify as having Maori ancestry. These figures are well underestimated if you were to use statistics in Paul Hamer’s 2006 study “Maori in Australia” that reported in 2001 there being approximately 100,000 Maori living in Australia with estimates at 2006 being in the proximity of 115,000. Local recent estimates make this number around the 165,000 to 175,000 mark. One in five Maori now live in Australia with second and third generations born there.

In 2007, Parekura Horomia visited Australia as the minister for Maori affairs to share the findings with Maori and also to provide support, contacts and ideas to local Maori organisations such as our reo classes and rugby league organisation, the latter of which will return for the third time in its ten-year existence this October long weekend to compete in the National Maori Rugby League competition, bringing approximately 150 players and support staff including our own Maori wardens. While Parekura supported, Pete Sharples went on National Television in Australia at the opening of the Giant Rugby Ball for the Rugby World Cup promotion by Tourism New Zealand in Sydney at the Rocks in August 2010, to advise that “if Maori in Australia want support from New Zealand – they need to come home”, Mr. Sharples having earlier commented during a kapa haka national competition in Australia during one of the performances that “…Maori trample on the mana of the Tangata Whenua…”In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup Giant Rugby Ball in the Rocks Sydney, Maori business involvement was discussed, however in the event we were overlooked and Maori businesses in Australia were ignored.

Maori are in Sydney, have been there for over 200 years and have a very rich history of trade. We have a reputation as having very strong work ethic and as being those workers that you want out front for the physically tough jobs. Entrepreneurship is another great trait that Maori have. We have started businesses that are unique, that are new and businesses that are environmentally and culturally sensitive and sustainable.

Entrepreneurship for Maori in Australia can be traced back to 1793 with the arrival of Tuki Tahua and Ngahuruhuru who have been credited as being the initiators of trade between Maori and the new colony of New South Wales. They were kidnapped by the British in the hope of them providing information on making flax rope as flax was many times stronger than traditional rope of the time. Tuki and Huru were brought to Poihakena, proved a handful for the Brits and eventually talked their way into having themselves sailed home.

One business that has taken advantage of this rich history is Kotahi Tours, a new small tourism venture, whose owners have years of experience in the tourism industry in the Rocks area in Sydney. Their tour, “Poihakena Tours: stories of Maori in Sydney”, shares stories such as those of Tuki and Ngahuruhuru with visitors. It is one tour that all Maori living in Australia need to take to understand our own whakapapa o te whenua moemoeao. Kotahi Tourism partner with Aboriginal Tourism operators through a self-styled business model based on “First Peoples working together – Respect, Permission and Ceremony”, showing the intrinsic link between Aboriginal Australia and Maori. I love this company because not only are they passionate about their business, it resonates with the owner-operators personally, the business model works well and is highly entrepreneurial in its very essence. 


When focusing on the extrinsic side of entrepreneurship, values and support in relation to Maori and Maori Business is somewhat suppressed in Australia. There is a real danger that this also suppresses the intrinsic entrepreneurship which then sets in place generations unwilling to step into the role of owning and managing business. In my opinion this can be put down to three main reasons, the first being that we’re in an environment privileging businesses that are backed by land holdings. Traditionally Maori in Australia have not made that shift, given the proximity to New Zealand and the requisite ideological shift into thinking of our lives here as long-term settlement. The second is a lack of a formal framework to recognise and promote Maori businesses in the larger corporate and government realm – meaning Maori businesses become wallpaper in an already over-crowded marketplace and in doing so dis-incentivising customers, supporters and succeeding family and networks. Third:  a lack of resources to help grow Maori businesses – the idea of sharing valuable resources is painfully not always possible with many Maori businesses in Australia struggling for survival.

Foster Local businesses

The main focus of our network in Australia is to bring about a cohort of Maori businesses that support each other. Traditionally this has not been done very successfully, in part possibly because we don’t receive the level of support enjoyed by our Australian cousins that migrate to New Zealand. Possibly because the stigma of “Plastic Maori” which is continually spouted in media, and sometimes levelled at us by Maori living in New Zealand, tends to make us hesitant. Quite possibly too it is that Maori are too focused on securing their own survival.

I am constantly asked for my thoughts on the difficulties of living and running businesses in Australia. The answer is usually the same: it is difficult without support. Business is difficult at the best of times. Issues such as increasingly difficult access to citizenship and welfare support, these are political issues, matters of government policy, make finding any old work a matter of survival. It is therefore not surprising too see an increase in numbers of individuals and families that are finding themselves living on the streets without support.

New Zealanders living in Australia identified Helen Clarke in her role as New Zealand Prime Minister making changes to citizenship in 2001 although, it seems, that Labour has more recently revealed itself as the likeliest party with plans to address the Australian resident New Zealanders’ disadvantage in relation to their visa status. In Australia, State financial support for business is dwindling while federally the Abbott government’s withdrawal of millions of dollars from Indigenous and Small Business programs means that start-up and operation of small to medium size businesses are increasingly limited to medium and upper household income earners or those with existing wealth.


Paul Hamer’s 2006 research, released in Sydney at the annual NSW Maori Rugby League Tournament by Parekura Horomia in 2007 as I already mentioned, unearthed some interesting findings. Paul travelled around Australia interviewing and gathering information from Maori engaged in all manner of vocations. One of the recommendations based on that research that still resonates with me was that in order for Maori to be successful, we need to come together. Collaboration is the key, collaboration not competition.

Recent collaborative activity

·      In 2011 a group of niche New Zealand products was tested in the Australian market at an intimate soiree on the upper northern beaches of Sydney. The soiree gathered niche Maori products from New Zealand and was presented in conjunction with Te Puni Kokiris’ April Eruiti, Richard Jones from Poutama Trust and local Vicky Gordon of VGM Music Marketing and Management. Products like Hema Water, Mata Beer and Toby Mills’s timely “Haka Bro” ready for Rugby World Cup were on show. 

·      In 2013 the very first Maori film festival outside of New Zealand was launched in Sydney in conjunction with and curated by Leo Koziol of the Wairoa Film Festival. The idea is to take the film festival around Australia – this year we included Brisbane and want to eventually show it in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and possibly Perth. The idea is to engage Maori and Maori businesses socially and spend quality time together sharing the disciplines we enjoy and have expertise in - storytelling.

·      Our most recent business meeting was a breakfast that hosted a group of businesses that import, provide services and ideas as well as products – it was a great mix with one guest travelling from Canberra to attend. We collaborated with film maker Tema Kwan Fenton and kohanga reo kaiako/tour guide Devlin Tikitiki to present and film the seminar for compilation as a webinar series. Our keynote speaker was Mathew Tukaki who talked among other things, about doing things differently – because we can.

·      Providing pathways for Australian Indigenous Companies in conjunction with the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce to enter into New Zealand to conduct specialised work.  An Aboriginal asbestos removal business whose vision is to bring Aboriginal staff to New Zealand, employ Maori staff and provide much needed expertise in the rebuilding effort in Christchurch. They continue to stress the point that they will not make any movement without consultation and permission from local Maori authority. They endorsed the Kotahi Tours business model built on respect, permission and ceremony.

Business models 

Sustainable business models for Maori organisations in Australia must focus on support. Being supportive as well as being supported. In saying, that many organisations struggle for survival and just do not have the capability for such activity. Speaking for myself, we had a failure, a flop this year – it’s a very tender subject in my household as the very heart of our existence was exposed and wounded – relating to the film festival I already mentioned. In 2013 Maori Business Network decided to fill a gap in the marketplace and start a film festival featuring Maori short films curated by Leo Koziol from Wairoa Film Festival. The response was great and feedback fantastic. We conducted surveys on all aspects from purchasing to parking. The response relating to the films themselves was overwhelmingly positive so we knew we had the right product. Then this year, believing we had listened to our customers: changed the venue, such as our surveys indicated, offered different time slots to help make available more flexible times to the working folk of Sydney – we even put on an activity for the tamariki so that parents could come along, drop their kids off and attend one of the sessions. Our numbers were down from the first year.

One of the questions that we‘ve asked ourselves is – do we need to continually provide something new in order to keep our marketshare? Like apple will we be rolling out a Film Festival 6 with added features – faster bigger, more, sexier with more zing? Because we did that and we went backwards. The answer is probably half way in between a “yes” for this question of providing something new and “watch what everyone else is doing and engage in a unique collaborative way that crosses over cultural, industry and social genre”. The one positive that I personally take away from this experience is that the business model has become clearer – collaborate or risk obscurity. Bring together the organisations that are at your fingertips – talk to them, show them what you’ve got and ask them to participate in the project that you’re involved in.

The business model to facilitate this outcome is the one that to this day provides the ability for marae to pull together and manage scarce resources effectively at difficult times. Mahitahi, te kotahitanga, whanautanga.


Kiwi Expatriates Association’s event last month, hosted at Google headquarters in Sydney and attended by the “who’s who” of Kiwi business had the opportunity to listen to Entrehub’s Mathew Tukaki, who you may recall also spoke at our networking breakfast event. Mathew was described as “entrepreneurship on steroids”. The Ex CEO of Drake Personnel in Australia who has held various prominent positions on government, university boards, community boards and committees and even the UN, spoke about doing extraordinary things by utilising the disruption theory, changing convention to zig while the rest of the landscape zagged.

One really interesting topic included dusting off the thirty year old Closer Economic Relations Trans-Tasman initiative on the premise of fostering Maori businesses for Maori returning to New Zealand from Australia. Mathew proposed using the Australian compulsory 9% super payment fund that each employer must set aside for employees. For the number of Maori that pay into the scheme it would mean access to a pool of tens of billions of dollars. Currently, Kiwisaver accounts are used by eligible individuals who are permanently leaving Australia, and who are retirement age. Mathew’s idea was for the scheme to allow access to those funds for business start-up purposes or investment loans for investment in New Zealand. The money would stay in Australia until maturity and then be available for payout as is currently the practice. Agreements between super funds and Kiwisaver would be required which is where government discussion needs to take place in regards to the regulatory procedures.

This could possibly curb the expected growth rate of Maori escaping to Australia while currently it is expected that within the next five years one in four of all Maori will live in Australia. Certainly this would also have a positive effect of reducing the dependency of Maori upon community and government organisations and provide the much needed impetus for Maori to attain tino rangatiratanga. Incidentally, New Zealanders at risk are able to access their superannuation funds but must show hardship before this can be made available to them.

Solutions and recommendations

I was reminded of Parekura Horomia’s remarks in 2007, when he attended our business network meeting during his visit. He reminded us that the ancestral home for Maori is Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pamaomao, and that Aotearoa was a mere stopping place, which makes Australia and beyond our kainga hau. So it’s pleasing to note the reduction of systemic ignorance towards Maori living in Australia and the businesses that we conduct, although change is slow. We hear less the labelling of “plastic Maori” and more positive media stories are being sought especially in the lead-up to elections.

Not one out of the seven recommendations put forward in Hamer’s 2006 “Maori in Australia” have been implemented. Gamlen in 2006 wrote that “… it is likely that the way to extract a benefit from citizens abroad is to extend a benefit”. Gamlen went on to say;

“States may find the extension of civil and social rights to their diasporas threatening, but I argue that if they fail to do so and expect to leverage share national identity in order to get something for nothing from emigrants, they are playing against the odds.”

Of course this situation needs to be addressed on both sides of the Tasman where there are now generations of Maori born in Australia to Australian born Maori parents. Although the idea of papa kainga remains firmly entrenched there is for many, a definitive shift from New Zealand as the central focus to local everyday activity as the over-riding theme. If voting is one of the ways in which Maori in Australia can support Maori in Aotearoa, how then can Maori in Aotearoa support our individuals, families, organizations/businesses in Australia? The simple answer is to support Maori initiatives by discussing them and celebrating their causes.

The flow on into the political realm will identify, by deeper discussion, which political party will benefit Maori on both sides of the Tasman but more importantly identify a party that will see past its own nose to support and invest in Maori businesses in Australia.

In Australia our business and community stalwarts need to be celebrated and receive the support they so widely deserve, in order to proliferate positive social and business activity. There are many self-help organisations such as KiwiLocals that have initiated fantastic programs such as feeding the homeless in Woolloomoolloo, supporting businesses and events and filling the spot of Maori in Oz the largest information service for Maori, vacated some years ago. The Koha Shed is going extremely well all over Australia and is another great example of self-help but again it is being used more as stop-gap service than a preventative one. We need more permanent and proactive measures to work past the survival attitude and talk about innovation and entrepreneurial behaviour that is linked with self-determined growth strategies such as business growth that will lead to employment of self and others.

Maori are helping Maori in Sydney – but at the sharp end where they are pushed to the very limit. It is support by necessity and although it is great to see that this happens we can help ourselves by reaching out earlier, be it by conducting research, surveys, or most simply, offering support in whatever capacity we can, much earlier than that edge of necessity.

In summing up I want to state to Maori in Aotearoa that Aboriginal people in Australia are intrinsically linked with Maori whether this be in community or business via a model based on respect, permission and ceremony. I invite everyone to think about supporting Maori living in Australia as an investment, how that investment can be put to work to give the best returns, and how by achieving this, Maori on both sides of the Tasman can do extraordinary things.

That collaboration is the key rather than competition.

Mahitahi, te kotahitanga, me whakawhanaungatanga.

Thank you to Buddy Mikaere and his wonderful team of organizers for making this opportunity to share with everyone today.