The Spinoff: Covid-19 has changed New Zealand forever. The experts explain how

Some of the smartest people in the country examine the effects of the pandemic on Aotearoa’s future in 400 words or fewer. 

Matt Roskruge: Māori economic impacts and opportunities arising from Covid-19

The Māori economy is a wonderful success story and a significant contributor to the New Zealand economy. However, Māori workers and their whānau are disproportionately impacted by the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19. 

Māori are still excessively employed in precarious work, vulnerable to changing economic fortunes. Coupled with barriers to economic participation like wealth inequality, systemic racism and discrimination, we get a downturn like Covid-19 creating greater risk to the wellbeing of Māori whānau.  

While we cannot ignore the vulnerability facing Māori in the workforce and their whānau, there are some really encouraging signs emerging from Covid-19. The first is the strengths and resilience of both Māori enterprise and the Māori economy generally. While tourism and hospitality remain concerning areas, diversification, low levels of debt and Māori governance and values appear to be contributing to their economic resilience.

However, there is no point having vibrant and strong Māori enterprises if Māori whānau are struggling. Solutions include finding employment and wealth creation opportunities for whānau, empowering Māori entrepreneurs and innovators, and finding our own solutions to stubborn social and economic problems.

We also need to ensure that the inevitable opportunities for wealth creation which follow an economic downturn are equitable. Ordinarily, the benefits of that recovery are disproportionately realised by those with significant wealth, and inequality grows. However, with the strength of the Māori economy we’re in a position to realise the benefits of the recovery through investment, innovation, entrepreneurship and strategic use of the now significant wealth held within parts of the Māori economy.

With the excellent leadership, entrepreneurial mindsets and commitment to Māori values we see in the Māori economy, there is every possibility that we can survive and thrive in the face of this and future crises.

Dr Matt Roskruge (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama) is co-director of Te Au Rangahau, Massey University

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