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National | Ngāi Tahu

Bumpy ride at country’s wealthiest iwi, 25 years post-settlement

It's been a bumpy ride for Shotover Jet owner Ngāi Tahu, due to economic headwinds during the past financial year.

Twenty-five years after its $170 million settlement, Ngāi Tahu has witnessed a tenfold, or 1000 percent, increase in assets. Now recognised by a TDB Advisory report as New Zealand’s wealthiest Iwi, its leadership acknowledges that the group is not completely shielded from the macroeconomic headwinds affecting the global economy and, by extension, Aotearoa.

Despite its impressive growth, the group has filed a $95.5 million loss this financial year, largely related to property writedowns in the real estate market but business has been tough overall according to the group.

“I think we’ve done well, considering the challenges - we’ve had some natural disasters come in,” said Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai, underscoring the group’s resilience amidst adversity.

Revenues climbed to $372.8 million, buoyed by sectors like farming, seafood, tourism, and property but so too did operating costs, which jumped to $128.1 million, with borrowing costs at $18.5 million.

Paper losses at the country's wealthiest Iwi have seen them book a $100 million loss on the 25th anniversary of settlement, mostly related to the country's volatile property market.

A $42.7 million loss from property investment revaluations, led to a trading shortfall.

“The cost of living, the rising cost of interests... Farming and forestry had been exposed to higher costs and falling export prices,” Ngāi Tahu Holdings Board Chair, Mike Pohio said.

“We see that house prices are down. That has slowed demand. And that has therefore slowed the number of properties or residential sections that our property division sells.” he added.

Even as the group grapples with these challenges, Pohio identifies strengths in the groups diversified portfolio.

“Seafoods and tourism have had great years,” he stated.

Property ventures like the Mānia industrial land in Dunedin and Te Pā Tāhuna in Queenstown have shown strong performance, with property assets contributing a $54.5 million surplus despite setbacks like the costly water damage in the Uku development in Auckland’s Hobsonville.

Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai.

Tourism initiatives like Shotover Jet and the All Blacks Experience faced a decrease in surplus, yet demonstrated resilience, and farming yielded a $9.4 million surplus.

“Our bottom line showed a reduction in valuations,” Pohio remarked. “However, it’s at times like these, the tough conditions that we’ve faced, that we’d benefit from a diversity in our portfolio.”

A sour note was also the tough decision to shutter the Mānuka honey business, Oha Honey, which had seen its production plummet to 244 tonnes from the previous year’s 491 tonnes, culminating in a substantial $35.9 million operating loss.

Tourism initiatives like Shotover Jet and the All Blacks Experience faced a decrease in surplus, yet demonstrated resilience, and farming yielded a $9.4 million surplus.

As Tumahai reflects on the 25-year journey, she places importance on celebrating past successes and looking forward with ambition.

“For this year, we’re celebrating the last 25 years post-settlement. It’s crucial we look back on all the gems, the highlights that have happened over the last 25 years and celebrate those,” she said.

Proud of the organisation’s strategic direction, Tumahai adds, “One of the positives... is Te Kounga Paparangi, our climate change action plan. I’m extremely proud.” she added.

Tumahai reflects on her tenure with the iwi, “I’ve had an absolute privilege to be involved with the iwi in the early stages... to see some of these really foundational things that will be there for the next 25 years.”