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The Taniwha meets the Dragon

Marae Investigates reporter Jodi Ihaka and cameraman Phillip Melville are part of the Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples Maori business delegation to China.

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Jodie Ihaka: Entry Two - Saturday 09 June 2012

Pita Sharples is all party in the front and business in the back.

By party in the front, I mean he's inherently Maori Party, first and foremost. The koro should be basking in his aging glory while relaxing with his mokopuna. Instead he's gearing up for another term as co-leader of the Maori Party while leading grueling but hugely beneficial Maori trade and development missions to China. 

By business in the back, I mean he's all business all the time. He's in the business of being Maori and right now his stocks are high. 

Ten days ago I didn't know what Maori Inc was.  Now, I want to marry it. 
Maori Inc is adding value to NZ Inc which is a government plan to target economic opportunities in China and India.

Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Leith Comer says Maori add value to New Zealand Inc and that was made internationally clear during the Rugby World Cup. From the opening ceremony to the closing, Maori were all over it.  So, building on that success and taking Maori Inc to the world is part of what the plan for this trip to China and Hong Kong.   I'm told it's about branding Maori as players. 

I'm also told the mission will benefit all of New Zealand.  The mission is of some benefit for the chief executives and chairpersons of some of the biggest Maori businesses in New Zealand who come on these missions because they were asked to by the Minister or because they want to do business with China.

Collectively they represent 36.9 billion dollars of Maori wealth.
Individually - they represent success, money and moving Maori to a much better place than we are now.   Maori economic interests are everywhere but they mostly represent New Zealand's five biggest export earners such as dairy, tourism, meat, wood and seafood.
The China mission if they choose to accept it also enables them to collaborate with each other.
June McCabe, Matt Te Pou, James Wheeler, Jamie Tuuta, Whatarangi Peehi-Murphy, Pania Tyson-Nathan, Kauahi Ngapora and Te Horipo Karaitiana.

These are big names in big Maori business representing:

Federation of Maori Authorities, Wakatu Inc, Central North Island Iwi Holdings, NZ Maori Tourism, Poutama Trust, Ngai Tahu Seafoods, Whale Watch Kaikoura and New Zealand Manuka.

The opportunities for iwi Maori are endless.  Already one iwi is talking business with another.


After the formal meet and greets they network amongst themselves.  Seeking entrepreneurial leverage.  They're hopeful and positive.  Down-time chit chat ranges from solutions for the Africa food crisis to why Maori need Barak Obama to win the coming US election.  It's fascinating and slightly fabulous to be amongst such positivity.

It's also hilarious.

When the Minister of Maori Affairs jokes about Maori invading China, in China, it's not some kind of diplomatic faux pas it's more an act of mana.  He tells them we all agree Maori originally came from China.  He says Maori are the one's tough enough to survive epic seafaring voyages into the wild unknown.

When he jokes about gifting precious pounamu taonga the Chinese graciously receive then refer to the manaia as monkeys and Sharples doesn't get offended. He gets funnier.

What about the kina? That yellow slug-like delicacy from the sea. Personally, they're not my cup of green tea. I have a Chinese reaction to them. Kina in Chinese means horse shit. So, they not only accepted it. They swallowed it.

Could've started a war - instead there was thigh-slapping laughter from both sides because that's how good Sharples diplomatic relations is.

These are the benefits of the Maori Party being at the table of power. Working together as partners with China and with each-other.  And there's more to come.

It's only Sharples second China visit and he has already cemented his relationship with top level officials securing hui with top level powerful men of mana in China.  These meetings are so much more than photo opportunities. They're business deals in the making.

In Shanghai, I asked Sharples if he wants to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  I think he should because he's good and the Chinese people adore him.

I can see he's being careful with his response. He says not really because that would mean spending too much time away from his mokopuna. He then laughs that warm grandfatherly chuckle and says he'd prefer to be the Minister of Tourism.

Given the international reaction to the Maori contribution to the rugby world cup - it's not that big a stretch to imagine Sharples in this new role. So come on John Key - revamp that cabinet and allow the Maori Party truer better benefits for being at the table of power.  

I'll bring you more exclusive insights in the deals being brokered here in China with Sharples and his delegates - stay tuned to Marae Investigates at 10am on Sunday mornings.

Xiexie


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