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Māori business

A Māori business is a business that identifies itself as a Māori business. It will be owned by Māori and may be predominantly staffed by Māori. Typically, it will strongly value Māori culture and tikanga. Part of its kaupapa may be to support particular outcomes for Māori, and te reo may often be used in workplace interactions.

This section is intended especially for teachers who are using a Māori business for their case study. It was developed by Māori business experts.

A note about these pages

We are currently reviewing these pages about Māori business as part of the NCEA Change Programme and are aware there may be generalisations. We have made them available to ensure kaiako are supported to continue to deliver a Business Studies teaching and learning programme using the current NCEA Business Studies achievement standards. However, we encourage kaiako to engage with Iwi, Hapū, or Whānau-led organisations to understand the nuanced way that business operates today. This will inform the Review of Achievement Standards for NCEA Business Studies.

About Māori business

Many modern Māori businesses operate with Māori culture, values, and tradition, alongside modern techniques and technologies. Māori ways of practising business are playing an important role in transforming the nature of business in New Zealand.

For example Māori (like other indigenous peoples) have long advocated for and practised the 'multiple bottom line' in business. They have also demonstrated that it can work. In recent times, there has been increasing acceptance of the idea that businesses should accept responsibility and be accountable across a range of domains, and should not focus solely on financial profit. Many non-Māori businesses are also beginning to incorporate social, cultural, philanthropic, environmental, and/or other sustainability goals into their kaupapa.

What makes a business a Māori business?

Māori businesses are businesses or enterprises that are:

Some Māori businesses are owner-operated and some employ people of Māori descent. Others may employ people of diverse ethnicities.

The Māori economy

The Māori economy is defined as assets owned and income earned by Māori. It includes collectively owned trusts and incorporations, Māori owned businesses, and service providers. Within the Māori economy, Māori can express their collective interests and aspirations (G. Harmsworth, Mana Taiao; (2006) Maori Values in the Maori Business Approach; a Report to the FoRST).

The Māori economy is a significant and growing contributor to the total New Zealand economy. Between 1996 and 2003, its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 123% (Te Puni Kokiri, 2007).

In 2007, Māori business was found primarily in agriculture, fisheries, and housing (together comprising 75% of the Māori economy). However, Māori businesses are diversifying, with increasing investment, ownership, and business development by Māori in the tourism and hospitality, telecommunications and energy, dairying, wine, and horticulture industries (Ibid, p. 28).

Māori business: Points of difference

Some Māori businesses operate in an almost identical manner to non-Māori businesses. But there are also areas in which Māori businesses may differ in significant ways from other New Zealand businesses. These differences fall into two categories:


Māori businesses must comply with all laws that apply to New Zealand businesses generally. But in addition, there are some laws that apply only to Māori businesses. For example, the Māori Reserved Lands Act (1997), Te Ture Whenua Māori Act (1993), and the Māori Fisheries Act (2004) set rules and define structures and processes that Māori businesses based on collectively owned assets such as Māori land and fishing quotas must follow.

Culture and values

Māori culture and values may be woven through Māori businesses in clear and obvious ways, or in quite subtle, less visible ways. For example, some businesses are based on tribal assets or openly promote Māori language, culture, and products. Other Māori businesses may appear to operate like non-Māori businesses, but incorporate Māori values such as manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, and tuhonotangaion into their thinking and ways of working. Multiple objectives – social, cultural, environmental, spiritual, and economic – are often very important in business as practised by Māori.

See also:

“TPK considers that Māori ownership is the key criteria for defining a Māori business (White, pers. comm., 2002). That said, there are also some other elements that one might also consider (Ibid). These include:

  • Self-identification - that is, do people promote themselves as a Māori ...business
  • Employment - a business that employs a large percentage of Māori staff
  • Values - for example, employing whānau, welcoming visitors, using traditional practices
  • Their broad view defines a Māori (business) as including both traditional and contemporary aspects of Maori culture and values” (Zygadlo; McIntosh; Matunga; Fairweather; Simmons, 2003).

Last updated October 3, 2022