Crown-Māori relationship evolves as $50b industry grows

Continued growth in the Māori economy off the back of what has been a tumultuous Treaty settlement process will see more active participation of iwi groups in New Zealand’s domestic M&A market, Chapman Tripp says.

Other themes identified in the firm’s publication – Te Ao Māori – Trends and insights – include increasing diversification of investment away from primary industries, adoption of tikanga in the commercial context, increased clout for Māori in the political sphere and an overall progression in indigenous rights law in New Zealand.

“The relationship between the Crown and Māori continues to evolve and, as more and more Treaty settlements mature, we expect to see further growth in the Māori economy, already estimated as worth $50 billion”, says Chapman Tripp’s Hoa Rangapū Whakarae (Chief Executive Partner) Nick Wells.

“New investment areas include geothermal, digital, services, education, tourism and housing. Participation in export markets is also increasing and we expect it to increase exponentially in the short-to-medium term – especially in Asia, in the finance and business sectors and the dairy, forestry, seafood and red meat markets,” Wells said.

“Contractual agreements and constitutional arrangements are drawing on tikanga Māori through alternate dispute resolution procedures and we expect this trend to gain traction. An example is Waikato-Tainui’s Hohou Te Rongo that uses aspects of negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

“We would advise those wanting to engage with Māori business to become familiar with the underlying concepts of tikanga Māori.”

The Supreme Court Wakatū decision, which found that that the Crown had fiduciary duties to the Māori owners of the “Nelson tenths” land, was likely to see a progression in indigenous rights law in New Zealand, Wells said.

“Between the Wakatū case and other proceedings now before the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, we expect many iwi will be looking at the emerging case law, weighing their rights and reassessing their relationship with the government in ways which may lead to further claims.”

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