Twelve months of work with Māori leaders has led to the establishment of Te Taumata – a unique engagement model – involving a group of recognised leaders in Māori socio-economic and cultural development chosen by Māori to engage with the Ministry on trade policy and related matters.

The Ministry signed a consultation and engagement Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Te Taumata members in September 2019. The MOU recognises the unique value Māori bring to trade conversations with the Ministry. It was agreed upon a foundation of trusted relationships and acknowledges that disagreements will be likely at times. It is independent and accountable to Māori.

Te Taumata provides a dedicated platform Te Taumata provides a dedicated platform for deeper discussion on trade policy issues. The group is assisting the Ministry to better understand and connect with Māori/Iwi trade-related interest groups.

The need for a Taumata was driven by a growing concern by many Maori about increasing volatility and uncertainty for agricultural traders in the global market place; the fast moving nature and pace of change; and the number of negotiations under way that are of interest to Māori.

Te Taumata
Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic Vangelis Vitalis with Te Taumata members, at the signing of the consultation and engagement MOU. Credit: MFAT

The Ministry deliberately played no part in the selection of the representatives or in the Terms of Reference. The Ministry approached the engagement using Māori and Ministry values of kotahitanga and manaakitanga, ensuring the process was one of ‘enabling’ rather than driving.

Taumata activities supported by the Ministry included commissioning research to improve understanding of complex FTA issues where there is a strong Māori interest; providing a Māori lens and analysis on key FTA developments through social media; and facilitating opportunities for kanohi ki-te-kanohi engagement hui in the regions.

The Ministry sees the Taumata model as working alongside its engagement with other Māori interest groups, including the Federation of Māori Authorities and the Pou Tahua of the National Iwi Chairs Forum. The level of interest being generated by the proactive work of Te Taumata to engage Māori, not only on the details of interest to Māori in trade agreements but also on the opportunities these create, is unprecedented.