Science, Innovation and Technology to power the Taniwha Economy

Thursday 17 May 2012, 3:47PM
By Pita Sharples

New Zealand’s economic future will be determined by our ability to connect businesses with science, innovation and technology, says Māori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples.

In speaking notes prepared for ‘Hikohiko Te Uira: FOMA Māori Science and Innovation Symposium’ this morning, Dr Sharples said when Māori and Polynesian ancestors first explored and settled the Pacific, science, innovation and courage were what they had in abundance.

“Science, innovation and courage are, once again, what we need if we are going to transform our country and our peoples into a true, Innovation Nation,” says Dr Sharples.

“It is not just a challenge for our Māori ‘Taniwha economy’, it is a challenge for our entire New Zealand economy,” he says.

The symposium is being run by the Federation for Māori Authorities and its findings will feed into the Māori Economic Development Panel’s consultation process. It follows last year’s Māori Economic Summit, the creation of a unique toolkit, and a series of regional workshops to connect Māori businesses with the science sector.

“Two years ago BERL estimated the Māori economy was worth around $36.9 billion and growing.  They also predicted that if the Māori economy invests successfully in science and innovation, it will lead to an additional $12.1 billion per annum in GDP by 2061 and thousands of new jobs,” Dr Sharples says.

“While BERL described the Māori economy as a ‘sleeping giant’, I prefer to call it the Taniwha Economy. I think it is pretty clear that the Taniwha Economy is no longer asleep: it is wide awake and hungry for business.

“We need to make sure the Taniwha Economy is nourished with innovation, science and technology.  This is the fuel to power the Māori economy to its full potential,” he says.

In further work, BERL and the University of Waikato’s Te Kotahi Research Institute undertook case studies of Māori entities using science and innovation. Strategic Step Change – Māori Entities and the Science Sector is looking more closely at this challenge.

New Zealand is falling behind other innovation driven economies, dropping from 21st to 25th place in this year’s World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report.  Dr Sharples told the symposium that decision makers cannot afford to do nothing.

“I am pleased that Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry for Science and Innovation, and FOMA are all working together to unlock the potential of science and innovation,” says Dr Sharples.