Waikato-Tainui began its financial activities in 1995 with its first $170 million treaty settlement. Now it is one of the biggest players in the Waikato investment market, with a total asset value that passed the $1 billion mark in the last year.

The tribe's financial arm, Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), picked up more than $100m in assets in the last 12 months. Waikato-Tainui released its annual report at a meeting last night. Rahui Papa, chairman of the tribe's executive committee Te Arataura o Waikato-Tainui, said "We've been able to distribute to our people in excess of $55m over the last 10 or so years."

The tribe's assets include land developments including Te Awa, The Base, a residential development in Huntington, and business investments including the Novotel Tainui and Ibis Tainui hotels, Waikato Milking Systems, and Genesis Energy. Papa said the tribe's ambitions benefited the wider community as well as Tainui members. "Our goal is to bolster the region, so in our belief what is good for Waikato-Tainui is good for the region. Ergo, it's good for the nation."

He said the tribe's "one team, one direction" philosophy has called on TGH to have a greater involvement in other parts of Waikato-Tainui's operations. "There's commercial considerations, sure, but there are also tribally sensitive considerations to look at in a commercial sense. That's absolutely fantastic and it's the first time in our organisation."

TGH chief executive Mike Pohio said the company has been assisting Waikato-Tainui's initiative to provide insurance for its 66 marae. Papa said "one team, one direction" is an age-old philosophy that the tribe reinstituted a couple of years ago. "There was a feeling amongst the tribe that people were working in silos and doing their own thing and it wasn't necessarily cohesive across the group. And so we had a think about it and [with] ‘one team, one direction' everyone came together, and things have been able to advance and progress." He said the group will now look at prospective projects "in a commercial sense, while at the same time looking at jobs for Waikato-Tainui people, while at the same time looking for opportunities for investment for Waikato-Tainui".

Papa said the tribe's focus over the last year has been on education, the environment, culture and the tribe's governance structure. "Our environmental strategy was launched at the end of last year and has progressed through all local councils and bodies, so on an environmental front we are looking at Lake Waikare, to rejuvenate and regenerate native flora and fauna around the lake there, as well as other things of course. On the language and culture front we are actively supporting strategies by marae for their own beneficiaries. We think that our support of marae enhances their culture and the heritage that has been bequeathed to each of us as Waikato-Tainui people."

Papa said a review of Waikato-Tainui's governance structure has brought some models to the tribe for consultation. "Kiingi Tuheitia called out to us to say ‘We're almost at 20 years of the settlement. Is this the right waka to take us forward into the future? Let's have a look at the governance and representation and let's see if we can't streamline it so it takes us forward and into the future'. "

Jamie Small - Waikato Times


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