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There’s undeniable mutual respect when Māori and Chinese enterprises do business together.

I’ve felt it myself when working over in Shanghai.

There is just something special between the two cultures that cultivate a bond and trust which can be channeled into building strong business partnerships.

With the value of the Māori economy increasing to an estimated $50 billion, more business opportunities are arising than ever before and they will only continue to grow.

These opportunities pave the way for mutually beneficial partnerships between Māori and Chinese in business that generally seem to be fair and prosperous for both.

But what is it that brings the two cultures together?

They aren’t similar in size at all, with China being 36 times bigger than New Zealand…

There is quite a difference in populations, with China boasting a population of 1.386 billion while the Maori population is… smaller than that.

And they are miles away from each other geographically…

Is it the fact that Maori could have originally migrated from China, making the long voyage via Taiwan, through the South Pacific, and on to Aotearoa, as many historians believe?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. What I have found though is that we have far more in common than people might expect.

The similarities that bring us together

Kanohi ki te kanohi means face to face and it’s something both Māori and Chinese cultures believe in – where you create respect before conducting business.

Honoring the other’s culture, heritage, and traditions are what help Chinese and Māori see eye to eye when securing business partnerships.

Each culture has its own distinct languages with heaps of different dialects, iwi to iwi or province to province.

We both have a traditional performance culture as well as customs, myths, and legends that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Both groups hold wairua as extremely important and have a unique take on spirituality, considering it to be interconnected with all aspects of life and vital to our overall well-being or hauora.

But the key similarity is in values that are shared between Māori and Chinese cultures.

I love Chinese culture because it’s very whanau-oriented. Family orientation is how I grew up.

I was raised by my grandparents in Masterton so seeing the way each generation looks after those who came before them really resonated with me and made me value their culture and traditions.

They understand what it means to take care of your iwi.

There’s also the shared understanding that both cultures are the caretakers of their land, the kaitiakitanga, which means that the Chinese respect our natural resources and the importance of protecting them, a hugely important factor when dealing with our natural assets.

How has this made business accessible across both sides?

I’ve found that sharing these values helps to establish trust from the get-go. There are major differences in the way Chinese and western businesses coordinate and conduct themselves.

If any westerner were to come in and try to present a business deal or market a product or service to a new group of Chinese business people, they may find more barriers to break down in order to build a solid working partnership.

With the shared cultural values between our two cultures, developing closer relations is more seamless and paves the way for easier opportunities in business.

I’ve experienced this first hand when working for Chinese organizations and this mutual respect helped me to fit in with my past marketing roles when living in Shanghai and working for China Southern Airlines in New Zealand.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to help many Kiwis build relationships in China and I’ve learned that for any business entering China, it’s critical you understand the cultural differences, and adapt your approach accordingly.

With this cultural understanding, Māori businesses are in a great position to explore Chinese markets, representing themselves authentically in a way that will be embraced with respect.

The future for Māori and Chinese in business

The Māori economy is considered pretty new, with assets being built up over time. In the past Māori relied on the government professional sector to manage assets.

But what we have seen in recent years is less Māori are working with government agencies to invest their assets, embracing the direct opportunity to work with Chinese organizations.

These have been initiated from both ends in my experience.

Today, Māori are creating opportunities for themselves.

Just this year, a group of small to medium Māori businesses have secured a spot on one of China’s main e-commerce sites, Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global platform.

13 Māori businesses now have a marketplace to sell premium food products to an estimated audience of 307 million Chinese consumers.

And there are plenty of other ways to enter the Chinese market, as we looked at in this blog.

It’s an all-new world out there for Māori in the business sector.

Over the last decade, we have seen iwi-controlled post-settlement assets grow, and they are now worth around $7 billion, a total that is expected to double over the next decade.

China is a hugely lucrative market to tap into, and long-term opportunities are now available to iwi which will sustain their communities for generations to come, and benefit the country as a whole.

Why not let us help you take advantage of them?

Over the last 25 years, government and iwi have been working to acknowledge the mess of historical grievances the Treaty of Waitangi left in its wake.

Many iwi have finally been able to reclaim land, and have reached settlements that make way for some pretty big opportunities for Māori in business.

I’m seriously proud of the huge developments the Māori economy has seen over the last few years. 2018 has been a year of massive growth for Māori business.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that the Māori economy represents $50 billion in assets, which is about six percent of New Zealand’s total asset base – and it’s pretty epic seeing that continue to grow.

We’ve seen iwi-controlled post-settlement assets expand to be worth around $7 billion, a total that is expected to double within the next decade, with the majority of Māori assets lying within the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.

These figures are awesome for Māori after decades of fighting, protesting, and deliberating between iwi and the state over treaty settlements.

But investing these capital gains for the best possible financial return (and for the most positive impact on our whanau and iwi) can be a hard field to navigate.

The kaitiaki (trustees of iwi who control these assets and make investment decisions) face a complex business environment that brings pretty unique challenges (including trying to meet the needs and expectations of the people).

Are our attitudes holding us back?

Over the past few months and years, it’s been great seeing groups getting funding who are in tough areas of Aotearoa that have sort of been forgotten in the past.

I myself only had my eyes opened to different prospects when I lived in Taiwan, working alongside Americans.

Coming from a small area in the Wairarapa, my future was limited to the environment I grew up in.

New Zealand has a bit of a ‘tall poppy’ culture that can stop you from feeling that succeeding is your right, with others cutting you down if it looks like you are “getting a little too big for your boots”.

When my friends from the US asked what I was doing with my life next, all I had really considered was factory work or farming… They were surprised by the small scope of options I had grown accustomed to, as all of them had been to or planned on going to uni.

Their cultural background had instilled a powerful “I can be anything” optimism within them, and I learned then that I could be anything too – which is how I ended up going to uni in the first place.

Because the fight to regain assets has taken so long (and is still ongoing), some communities who have made these gains have developed a “defeatist attitude” in the meantime.

When you’ve had to overcome societal barriers and cycles within your own community for years, it can be tough to shift your mindset into one that’s needed to really succeed in business.

Tapping into the right knowledge and experts

Often iwi don’t have networks to tap into, or this is their first business opportunity.

Operating on a local scale is hard enough, but managing opportunities on the global scale can be even more challenging.

Generally speaking, the recipient of assets from treaty settlements are rurally based and may only be privy to the information and business advice that’s locally accessible.

Sure, you can jump on Google for information, but ultimately this likely won’t be all that helpful in decision making.

When you don’t get the right advice or are overwhelmed with information about investing, it can often seem easier to decide to park it, for now, to avoid being pushed in all directions.

At the end of the day though, all iwi are different. Each iwi will want different things and at the end of the day, it’s the people who decide.

Getting the right team to work together to take advantage of new opportunities is a challenge in itself.

With an overload of information and pressure, it’s easy to lose sight of what you really want.

Finding the right partners, who you can really resonate with and build a strong relationship with, is essential to ensuring that Māori businesses, and the Māori economy, continues to thrive.

So how can you do this?

The impact of partnering

Balancing risk and reward is a deep responsibility that iwi and hapu hold as kaitiaki.

This can be tough when handling both international and domestic markets.

Partnering with experts in their field fills in the knowledge and skill gaps that may be missing while partnering with the right experts helps you come to collective decisions for the benefit of everyone involved.

As a team with a variety of cultural backgrounds and business expertise, we try our best to understand the kawenga and demands of representing Māori and meeting the needs of the wider community.  

What we offer is a proven framework for how to be successful in marketing to domestic and offshore markets.

Exporting to China is a huge opportunity for Māori and, if managed the right way, always proves to be fruitful for the Māori community and all of New Zealand.

Your goals become ours, and the basis for everything we do moving forward.

We aim to add long-term value to Māori business, creating opportunities in education, exports, marketing, and all sectors that can benefit Māori and all Kiwis in the international and domestic markets.

With our approach, we’ll tell you exactly what we’re doing, explain why we’re doing it and then show you the results we’ve earned because of it.

I understand the Māori values of whanau first, guardianship of the land, and the role of kaitiakitanga because I’ve lived them my whole life, and I’m proud to be bringing those values to ROCKETSHP.

The future for Māori business

The legacy of the Māori people, our culture, and our value in the business world is something many other Kiwis are waking up to, as we’ve seen with the continuing integration of Te Reo Māori throughout the public and private sectors.

The value our culture and contribution can bring to all Kiwis continues to be recognized more and more, which is reflected in the ever increasing value of the Māori economy.

2018 has been an incredibly successful year for the Māori economy and we want you to enjoy the benefits too. For our community, ko te pai ano ki te haere mai, the best is yet to come.

Blair Haeata is one of the key experts in the ROCKETSHP family. One of the few foreigners to have worked for China Southern Airlines, and a vocal advocate for a strong Māori economy, he is passionate about growing Māori businesses nationally and internationally through effective, results-driven marketing. He is connected to Rangitāne, Kaimonu, and Ngāti Raukawa.