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Māori business: Ownership and responsibility

Multiple ownership

When a group owns something together as shareholders or beneficial owners with specific and quantifiable 'interests' in land and/or assets, this is known as multiple ownership.

In such situations, assets are usually vested in a trust, with the collective owners being its 'beneficial owners', or in an incorporation, with the collective owners being shareholders.

Banks have traditionally been reluctant to lend or support developments involving land and assets in multiple ownership because of the perceived complications associated with this form of ownership.

Collective ownership

In collective ownership, assets (for example, lands, waterways, forests, buildings, companies, fishing quota) are owned by a collective or group.

The term 'collective ownership' is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'multiple ownership'. But collective ownership more correctly refers to shared ownership in which there are no specific, identifiable share parcels or interests.

Culturally significant sites, and assets returned through Treaty Settlement processes, are often held in collective ownership. Governance of the business and assets may still be vested in a trust, with the trustees acting on behalf of the collective and subject to particular rules and conditions.

Intergenerational assets and kaitiakitanga

Intergenerational assets (such as land and waterways, businesses structures, and rights) are assets that are passed down through generations.

If assets are thought of as intergenerational in nature, they will not, cannot, or should not be sold, because the role of the adult generation is to protect and grow the assets for future generations.

If a Māori business or organisation is responsible for intergenerational assets, it will usually be more interested in growing the assets in a risk-averse manner (slowly and carefully so as to protect the asset), rather than engaging in high-risk investments (investments that make more profit in the short term but carry a higher element of risk).

Maximising profit in the short term by selling assets when their value is high is not favoured. The intergenerational nature of Māori business and assets encourages a custodial/guardianship view, where long-term stability is favoured over short-term gain. This view is known as kaitiakitanga, the philosophy and practice of guardianship.


Tikanga is a term used to refer to the ethical framework of Māori society; that is, what is right and correct in any given situation.

Tikanga underpins the customs, systems, and processes of Māori society and organisations. It is a primary basis of reasoning and decision making pertaining to behaviour and courses of action. It is the foundation for codes of ethical practice (tikanga matatika).

A wide range of customary concepts and values fall within the parameters of tikanga; tikanga determines the priority and expression given to these concepts and values in a given context.

Tikanga is just as relevant to today’s Māori – including in business contexts – as it was in historical times.


Te ngira tuitui

Te ngira tuitui is a metaphorical term that equates entrepreneurship (business creation) with the process of stitching or weaving various strands or materials together to produce a new product, venture, or initiative. (Ngira is a transliteration of the English word 'needle'. Tuitui is a “reference to sewing or to thread a string repeatedly” [Ngata, H. M., (1993), English-Māori Dictionary, Wellington, NZ: Learning Media Ltd].)

Maui (Maui potiki, Maui-tikitiki-a-taranga, Mauipreneurship)

Māori credit Maui, a central figure in Māori and Pacific mythology, with fishing up the North Island, slowing the sun to enable increased productivity, making fire accessible to all people, and a range of other significant achievements. The traits exhibited by Maui are in many ways the archetypal traits of entrepreneurial thinking and action.

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Last updated October 3, 2022