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Māori enterprise: The economic powerhouse driving innovation in Aotearoa

From our Partners

By Callaghan Innovation

11 May 2022

STR 5997 3

The Māori Economy represents a significant economic force in Aotearoa. Worth $70b, the Māori Economy is growing - and fast.


The number of Māori enterprises rose by 33% between 2013 and 2021. Westpac just last year estimated that Māori asset bases total $68.7b, an increase of 61% since 2013. 

Last year, the NZ Productivity Commission released research which showed that Māori frontier firms are faster growing, more innovative, and more likely to export than other firms. 

And according to Stats NZ, the value of Māori-owned enterprise revenue in the scientific and tech fields last year by the December quarter was up by $21m.

These are the powerful statistics we rarely hear about the Māori Economy, a strong and growing force driving prosperity in Aotearoa. 

Henare Johnson has recently joined Callaghan Innovation in the newly created Chief Māori and Government Engagement Officer role. Johnson joins the team from Air New Zealand, where he spent the past five years as Cultural Development Manager and then Head of Culture and Development.

Henare’s vision for the Māori Economy team and Callaghan Innovation as a whole is to illustrate the value Māori innovation and businesses bring to Aotearoa. He recognises the power of the Māori economy as a fast-growing economic force.

“Māori businesses are already doing exceptional work. The Māori Economy is now worth $70 billion  – that’s no small feat,” says Johnson. “The Māori Economy will continue to grow – and our role is to support it to seize on opportunities in technology and innovation.”

Johnson says that he has joined Callaghan Innovation to build on the government innovation agency’s commitment to supporting growth in the Māori Economy.

“Callaghan Innovation’s Chief Māori and Government Engagement Officer role has evolved to build upon the foundations and work of our previous General Manager Māori, Hemi Rolleston,” says Johnson. “As the Māori Economy has grown, so has Callaghan Innovation’s commitment to supporting it. Our Māori Economy team has proven experience in supporting the growth and development of Māori enterprise.”

Tanya Wilson, Business and Relationship Manager, Māori Economy Team at Callaghan Innovation. 

The Māori Economy team at Callaghan Innovation, managed by Johnson, is a growing group consisting of innovation experts Kruger Wetere, Tanya Wilson (Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa, Tuwharetoa, Tainui, Kai Tahu), and Damian Ngata, all of whom understand Māori business and see innovation as a crucial pathway to success for Māori.

The team supports Māori businesses by connecting them to the proper research and development (R&D) services, co-funding with other agencies, and providing the right opportunities and networks to help them innovate and commercialise and grow faster.

“The Māori Economy team act as the portal to innovation expertise for entities, iwi organisations, land trusts, incorporations, and businesses that self-identify as Māori,” explains Kruger Wetere, Māori Business & Relationship Manager at Callaghan Innovation.

Working with internal Callaghan Innovation experts and other government agencies, such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the Māori Economy team guides businesses along their innovation journey.

“Sometimes people come to us, and they have thought everything through. Other times we must work alongside businesses to help them think holistically about what they are doing that makes them innovative,” says Wetere. “There is always some way for us to support Māori businesses and provide opportunities”.

Whakawhanaungatanga (the process of establishing relationships and relating well to others) is integral to their process. “You build trust with these customers and form strong bonds that then help us to help them grow,” says Wetere.

“It’s a cradle to grave relationship. We work with customers as long as necessary. Even after connecting them to the right people and supporting them where possible, we continue checking in and continuing the kōrero”.

Keep an eye out for upcoming stories about innovative Māori Businesses on the Customers page on Callaghan Innovation’s website.



Callaghan Innovation is delighted to again be a strategic partner to Techweek 2022 - check out our Techweek’22 event playlist here, and mark the activity in your calendar.

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