Indigenous | Whānau Ora

$2.7m investment in Māori businesses pays off

The research looked into the funding model used by Whānau Ora's South Island commissioning agency. (Image: Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu/Maanua Tealei Photography)

An economics professor says the $2.7 million public investment provided through the South Island’s Whānau Ora commissioning agency in its most recent tranche has provided “very good value for money”.

The economic benefit is about $2.40 return for every $1 invested.

Professor of economics at Lincoln University, Paul Dalziel, said the return on investment was “significant” and demonstrated the huge economic value of supporting Māori to invest in their own futures.

This agency’s latest funding wave invested in 83 different initiatives across the South Island. Wave funding invests directly in whānau-led enterprise and entrepreneurship, including support to build business and financial capability.

Profound impacts

Dalziel, who is also co-director of the agribusiness and economics research unit (AERU) at Lincoln, said Treasury’s extended cost-benefit analysis tool identified the economic outcomes.

“Many impacts are profound but impossible to quantify, such as increased hope and intergenerational aspiration. Other impacts are measurable in economic terms, such as increased life satisfaction reported by project participants.

Dalziel worked with his co-director at AERU, Professor Caroline Saunders, and Ihi Research.

The study found almost 5,000 Māori were positively impacted, with a net present value of up to $87,433 per person.

AERU estimated the economic value of increased life satisfaction combined was at least $7.2m.

Director at Ihi Research, Catherine Leonard, said the investment was turning the dial for whānau.

“It emphasises, too, the need to value outcomes that are valued by Māori – the right of whānau to strive and thrive on their terms based on their own notions of wellbeing and success.”

Wave funding

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu (South Island’s Whānau Ora commissioning agency) Pouārahi, Ivy Harper, said the research was remarkable in terms of singling out the economic return on investment.

“The returns have seen whānau shift from state dependency and subsistence living towards independence and wealth creation,” Harper said. “This is significant and emphasises the enormous value of direct whānau investment in a social, cultural and economic sense.”

The findings were released at this year’s Whānau Ora Symposium in Christchurch on Thursday. The event continues on Friday.

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has invested in wave funding rounds since its establishment in 2014.

There have been 16 waves to date, with hundreds of projects funded. The most recent wave was in the 2022/23 financial year.

Wave 17 applications closed earlier this year in February and will run early next year. Wave 18 applications will open next year.

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