Fast Four Questions: Tania Simpson, Director Kowhai Consulting

Tania Simpson is the founding Director of Kowhai Consulting, and sits on the boards of organisations that include the Reserve Bank of NZ, Tainui Group Holdings and Global Women.

A member of the Waitangi Tribunal, Tania has experience in leading and guiding Maori organisations on a development pathway and supports Māori development as a member of King Tuheitia’s Privy Council, as Chair of Radio Maniapoto and a Trustee of Tui Trust.

We grabbed a few minutes with Tania to ask her about the Māori economy, and what non-Māori organisations can do to help support robust and thriving Māori organisations.

Global Women: In your opinion, what unique challenges and opportunities do Māori businesses face? How might they differ in approach to non-Māori businesses?

Tania Simpson: A unique challenge that Maori businesses face is to be able to develop and trade as iwi/hapu or whanau within the legal frameworks and business practice norms that have been largely designed for a different cultural paradigm.

This sometime places Maori businesses in the nexus between the requirements of its tribal stakeholders and the expectations of non-Maori business partners. Maori businesses are continuously developing new models of doing business to meet the different cultural and commercial interests of various stakeholders. In many cases Maori business practices are more aligned with international business partners.

GW: The Māori economy already contributes over $42billion to the NZ economy as a whole. How do you see it benefiting NZ socially?

TS: Treaty settlements are a fundamental step toward restoring the economic base of Maori that was so significantly eroded by Crown actions. Through land confiscation and cultural loss Maori have already disproportionately contributed to the benefit of NZ society. The Government continues to hold a Treaty interest to ensure that Maori have the same social outcomes as non-Maori New Zealanders.

While the growth of the Maori economy is already demonstrating strong social returns for Maori, it is also important not to expect that the reparations paid to Maori for acts and omissions on behalf of the Crown should be applied to socially benefit NZ.

GW: How can non-Māori businesses work more closely with the Māori economy?

TS: Non-Maori businesses wanting to work more closely with Maori should offer a value proposition that includes a strong awareness, understanding and appreciation of Maori business in terms of its unique cultural/political aspects. This self-education reduces the requirement for Maori businesses to explain, educate or compromise on their cultural values and goes a long way to building a meaningful relationship. The fastest way to achieve this is to employ skilled Maori and to undertake some learning.

GW: How would you like to see organisations encourage young Māori to step up to leadership?

TS: As per the previous question supporting young Maori into leadership roles includes having an appreciation of what being Maori means. The more an organisation can develop some awareness of what it means to be Maori, the better they will be able to consider how to support and encourage Maori into leadership roles. However the first step is to articulate a genuine commitment and to be prepared to take the journey to ensure a positive outcome.