Following my highly publicised move from law to accountancy, I had the opportunity to attend the Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa Hui-a-Tau (the Māori Accountants Hui) held in Wellington on July 26 and 27. It was a wonderfully uplifting and positive experience, and great to meet my new peers. I sat down over the weekend and collated my notes from the hui and today I share ten insights that I gained from the hui.
- There is a lot of positivity amongst Māori working in the accountancy, business advisory, and Iwi organisation space. Everyone remains aware of the enormous issues that still face Iwi, Hapū, and Whānau Māori – but this awareness is tempered by the knowledge of the exciting work that is being undertaken to address these issues.
- This shift in mindset has not gone unnoticed by the Government. Bill English, in his keynote speech, made the point that Iwi have moved from asking for hand-outs and grants to talking about cost-drivers and social and economic opportunities.
- The Government is responding to this change through the way that it interacts with Māori. The recently released “He Kai Kei Aku Ringa – The Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership” report provides a clear action plan to develop capacity amongst Māori over the next five years.
- We are also starting to see, for the first time, an all of Government approach to interacting with Māori. The days of “Māori Affairs” is over, and the new CEO of Te Puni Kokiri, Michelle Hippolite, made an explicit acknowledgement of this in her keynote address. TPK perceives itself as a knowledge and relationship organisation and is working hard to change the perception that it is still the one-stop-shop that Māori Affairs used to be.
- Speaking of Michelle Hippolite, she posited a thought-provoking statement on how we define ourselves. Essentially, the question that she posed is whether “Māori” is still appropriate today? In the future there might be a paradigm shift in how we perceive ourselves, a shift which focuses more on Iwi, Hapū, and Whānau Māori.
- Moving to the economic, we were treated to an insightful presentation by Terry Goodtrack, the President and CEO of the Canadian Aboriginal Financial Officers Association. He made three points regarding the success of aboriginal business. First, best practice aboriginal businesses have the following characteristics: Political independence; Strong governance; Strategic direction; Community consultation; Strong networks and relationships; and a clear vision.
- His second insight immediately caught my interest given my current research on indigenous sovereignty: According to the Harvard Project, sovereign communities economically outperform those communities who do not exercise sovereignty over their decision-making processes.
- His third insight was short, to the point, and a clear statement on how we should proceed into the future with our economic development: The way forward is not to just partner with someone – build the development and own it. Self-reliance is the end game.
- A wealth of information came out of the technical break-out sessions. My two favourites were a session on China and a session on Taxation. The three core messages from the session on interacting with China were: relationships matter so put someone on the ground; our single biggest opportunity with China is in cross-cultural knowledge transfer; and the key to building a long-term relationship is to learn the language.
- The Taxation session, presented by our very own Deloitte Tax Partner, Mark Lash, provided a good introduction to the importance of selecting the right corporate structure when trading overseas so as to avoid a potential large tax liability. More than anything, it reinforced the need to ensure that our Iwi organisations and Māori businesses have access to high-quality legal and accountancy advice.
All-in-all, it was a great conference, and I would recommend it to any of you working within our Iwi organisations. The 2014 Hui will be held next July in Gisborne.