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Ngāti Porou: Putting community before profit

Meet the holding company operating under a unique business model: one that’s not just driven by potential profits, but by the contribution it can make to the wider community.

Reading time: 4 minutes

Leading the way

Occupying one of the remotest corners of New Zealand, the Tairāwhiti (Gisborne/Eastland) region proves geography doesn’t need to be a barrier to a thriving economy.

Leading the way is local tribe Ngāti Porou.

Chairman of the Ngāti Porou Holding Company (Ngāti Porou Holdco) Matanuku Mahuika says Ngāti Porou has a significant role in the development of the region. “We are one of the larger businesses and 45% of the Gisborne population are Māori. If this region is doing well that creates opportunities for our people."

ANZ Business: Ngāti Porou

Listen to Matanuku Mahuika, chair of the Ngāti Porou Holding Company, on Ngāti Porou’s significant role in the development of their region.

A diverse portfolio

Ngāti Porou Holdco was established in 2012 as a subsidiary of Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou. It’s the tribe’s commercial arm, with the distinct purpose to generate sustainable profits for the benefit of the tribe now and into the future.

The holding company has three main areas of interest and investment:

  • Managed funds with $150 million invested
  • Legacy businesses including fisheries, farming, and forestry
  • Emerging businesses and industries.

Such a diverse portfolio comes with its own set of challenges. Largely, being able to understand and manage such a wide range of business activities. The decision-making process can be slow as the board takes time to ensure any investment meets a wide range of objectives, giving weight to both commercial and community outcomes. It’s this consideration for people – not just profit – that characterises Ngāti Porou Holdco.

We look at a number of criteria before we decide to invest. Does it make a financial return? Does it provide benefits such as employment? Do we have capacity to execute it? – Matanuku Mahuika

People, purpose and prosperity

The way Mahuika sees it, Ngāti Porou Holdco operates under a unique business model – not just driven by potential profits, but by the contribution it can make to the wider community. 

“We have to look at a number of criteria before we decide whether or not we want to invest. Does it make a financial return that is acceptable? Does it provide benefits above the financial return, such as employment? Does it have a local component and do we have capacity to execute it?” says Mahuika. 

One example of Ngāti Porou Holdco’s community focus is its investment in mānuka honey. As well as owning the land the mānuka trees are on and harvesting the honey from hives, Mahuika says there’s a real opportunity to expand its role far beyond just being a producer.

“The thing that is really attractive about mānuka is the opportunity for the tribe, for the region, and for our people. Currently we’re producers, but we don’t go a long way down the value chain. Part of our ambition is to create an environment where we have greater involvement by our people in the mānuka honey business overall.”

This kind of innovative thinking is also driving the fisheries business, Ngāti Porou Fisheries. The creation of a new brand – Ahia Smoked Fish – has allowed the exploration of new retail opportunities, adding value to fish species that were traditionally undervalued.

We're owned by the tribe so we have a responsibility to maintain the tribe’s values. We're often asked 'what are you doing to change the circumstances of our people?' – Matanuku Mahuika

Future focused

With other opportunities including tourism and the creation of a shared tech space on the Gisborne waterfront, Ngāti Porou Holdco isn’t resting on its laurels – and ANZ has been supporting it along the way. 

“ANZ has been very supportive of us. There’s a branch locally so we can go and see someone if we need to. ANZ has helped us achieve our goals, including financing our honey company and the growth of the fishing business. They have also shared insights about what other iwi are doing and what we can be doing better," explains Mahuika. 

And what they can be doing better is something Mahuika and his board are regularly challenged on.

“We're owned by the tribe so we have a responsibility to maintain the tribe’s values and make a contribution beyond cash returns. We are often asked 'what are you doing to change the circumstances of our people?'”

A lot has changed since the settlement between the Crown and Ngāti Porou in 2010 and the transfer of assets to Ngāti Porou Holdco in 2012, with the tribe now seeing regular returns on its investments.

“We have a lot of really talented people, so hopefully if we do a good job we’ll get them coming back and sharing their skills and expertise. If we continue to do the things we’re doing, then our future is a good future,” says Mahuika.

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