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Banks jockey for Maori business as BNZ launches $50 million fund

BNZ has upped the ante by announcing a $50 million fund to help bridge the shortfalls for iwi and hapu during their Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

The bank expects its funding, along with advice from its Maori business team, to help unlock an estimated $1.5 billion worth of existing Treaty claims.

Approximately half of iwi have received a treaty settlement but, for the remaining 60-plus claimants, there is a need for funding assistance and good financial advice to help them through the settlement process, says Pierre Tohe, head of Maori business at BNZ.

“With the time between mandate and final settlement, which can take between three and seven years, many iwi can’t afford the continued costs of the process, meaning many settlements are delayed or deferred,” he says in a statement.

Many iwi haven’t plotted their road maps that take them to their settlements and beyond, says Leon Wijohn, national Maori business sector leader for Deloitte. 

“That road map requires realistic resources to assist Maori organisations, their staff and their boards to be ready for the huge jumps in assets size, complexity, risk and reward. In this context, this is a very good initiative announced by the BNZ today,” Mr Wijohn told NBR ONLINE.

Mr Tohe says that if iwi are successful in contributing to the economy, the whole country stands to gain.

“Maori are a growing economic force with an estimated $37 billion in assets, a growing population and the appetite to invest in long-term sustainable growth projects in New Zealand,” Mr Tohe says.

The treaty settlement process, in general, can be made faster and less costly, Mr Wijohn says. The process has dragged on while iwi jump through numerous hurdles, he adds.

“The massive lift for all New Zealanders will come in future years as Maori refocus their efforts from negotiating treaty claims to building wealth for their iwi, hapu and whanau,” he says.

The recently announced fund is part of a wider move for BNZ, which is increasing efforts to help iwi with their finances.

Last year the bank released a white paper targeting Māori organisations, which highlights best practices for portfolio management. These organisations often experience competing objectives of providing intergenerational fairness via distribution of benefits, while achieving stable income to fund strong wealth creation, according to a BNZ statement.

Westpac has had a Maori business team for the past four years, says spokesman Chris Mirams, and the bank has supported iwi and hapu through treaty processes for about the past six years.

ASB has a team of three in its Maori business team and last December announced its partnership with Poutama Trust to develop Maori businesses. The trust describes itself on its website as “an apolitical, independent, pan-tribal and proactive Maori business development organisation”.

ANZ established a head of Maori relationships position at the start of 2011. The bank has provided millions of dollars of funding to pre-settlement iwi and hapu groups, says spokesman Pete Barnao. Its also taken Maori business leaders to Asia to help the community “unlock the potential of their large and diverse business interests, particularly in the primary sector”, he says.

sflores@nbr.co.nz

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