Every few years, as the Māori economy grows, someone floats the idea of an iwi-owned financial institution. The list of pros and cons is long, writes business advisor and Treaty commentator Joshua Hitchcock.
It has been a challenging period for the banking industry in New Zealand. Moves by the Reserve Bank to strengthen capital carrying requirements have been met by strong resistance from the major trading banks, and the recent scandals threatening to engulf ANZ all serve to highlight an industry that from the outside, does not appear to have fully taken ownership of its contribution to the global financial crises of a decade ago. Add to this the fact that the four major New Zealand banks are all owned by the large Australian banks so heavily criticised by the Australian Banking Royal Commission earlier this year and it becomes clear that this is an industry in desperate need of reform or disruption.
It is within this context that the idea of a Māori or iwi-owned bank has once again been proposed. From the establishment of the Maungatautari Money House in the 1880s through to Te Pūia Tāpapa Fund, an investment vehicle established by various iwi and Māori land organisations in 2018, the establishment of a Māori financial institution has been a small, but persistent, conversation in the wider discussion around Māori economic development. The idea is not new and it is easy to see why it would appeal.