Centralized decentralization for tribal business development

Tremane Lindsay Barr (Toitu Te Kainga, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Christchurch, New Zealand)
John Reid (Toitu Te Kainga, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Christchurch, New Zealand)



The purpose of this research was to identify and create a decentralized development system specific for the whanau (family) and hapu/runanga (sub-tribe) members of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. In New Zealand, a number of Maori tribes have negotiated compensation with the New Zealand Government for past injustices. These assets are typically centralized within iwi (tribal) corporate structures to protect and grow the asset base on behalf of tribal constituents. This centralization of assets has caused political tension within tribes.


This paper provides a case study of whanau/hapu-level businesses facilitated by the post-settlement iwi – Ngāi Tahu – to demonstrate how each level can work synergistically to encourage multi-level economic development in a way that matches cultural patterns and expectations. Participant action research theory and practice was utilized by researchers from Toitu Te Kainga (Regional Development Unit of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu) between 2008 and 2012. This was informed by an Enterprise Facilitation person-centred perspective and a Kaupapa Māori philosophy of respect and empowerment of the participants needs.


This paper argues that while a certain level of centralization is required, to ring-fence and protect tribal assets at an iwi (tribal) level, the benefits gained by that centralization can then be utilized to provide a springboard for decentralized economic development at the whanau (family) and hapu (sub-tribe) levels.


This new indigenous development system is referred to as the symbiotic development model and is an original outcome of this research paper. The paper concludes that tribal economic development in the post-settlement era in New Zealand needs to combine aspects of both centralization and decentralization.



Lindsay Barr, T. and Reid, J. (2014), "Centralized decentralization for tribal business development", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 217-232. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-10-2012-0054

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