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Indigenous Entrepreneurship: Cultural Coding and the Transformation of Ngāti Whātua in New Zealand

Merata Kawharu

JPS, Vol 125, No 4 pg (359-382)


Innovation and entrepreneurial endeavour by Māori communities is increasingly capturing the attention of academics and wider society, but like indigenous entrepreneurship studies more generally, Māori entrepreneurship is still a relatively new field of study. A gap or an opportunity in both cases is to critically examine the application of culture in entrepreneurship. Culture can of course mean many things to many people. Theoretical insights concerning culture in indigenous entrepreneurship will develop as case studies are investigated, and factors unique or different to each are understood. In this article, therefore, and in contributing towards theory development, I explore one particular innovation, modelled by a frame called cultural coding for entrepreneurship. Cultural coding identifies and examines essential features for the successes that unfolded within the Auckland-located kin community Ngāti Whātua as they pursued an extraordinary entrepreneurial endeavour: acquiring and then securing a large area of central business district land (the Railway Land, including the former central Auckland Railway Station) in New Zealand’s largest city. Case study analysis is further aided by insights stemming from renowned economists Ludwig Lachman and Joseph Schumpeter concerning combining and recombining resources in new ways, and the related idea of “opportunity recognition”. The resources were principally the people and their values, but they also included land and finance, without which there was no enterprise. This article stems from research undertaken within the author’s community from a researcher position that is located between the insider and outsider dichotomies, but which is more aligned to a nuanced Māori research positionality described in this research as a whakapapa or genealogically-informed “included researcher”.


Indigenous entrepreneurship, New Zealand Māori, cultural coding, “included researcher”, Ngāti Whātua, Treaty of Waitangi.

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