Te Whare o Te Waipounamu, 15 Show Place, Addington
Telephone: (+64) 3-366-4344
Web site: https://www.ngaitahuholdings.co.nz
Employees: 21,686 (2016)
Sales: NZD 384.6 million (2016)
NAICS: 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies
Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation Limited (NTH) is the commercial arm of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu iwi, the governing council of the Ngāi Tahu, a tribe (“iwi”) of the Māori indigenous people that populate the South Island of New Zealand. The NTH is primarily involved in seafood, farming, real estate, tourism, and investments. The Ngāi Tahu Seafood division manages the tribe's fishery assets of lobster, abalone, bluff oysters, and blue cod. Ngāi Tahu Farming manages more than 100,000 hectares of beef and dairy farms and forest lands. The Ngāi Tahu Property division is involved in residential developments in Christchurch and Auckland, New Zealand, and commercial properties throughout the South Island. Ngāi Tahu Tourism focuses on family outdoor adventure activities on both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand. Finally, Ngāi Tahu Capital makes direct and indirect investments in both public and private companies. Its diversified portfolio includes investments in the Whale Watch Kaikoura, a tourism company; Ryman Healthcare, an operator of retirement communities; Go Bus, New Zealand's largest bus operator; Waikato Milking Systems, a dairy technology company that serves 20 countries; Watson & Son, a manuka honey producer; and Hilton Haulage, a transport and storage provider.
The Ngāi Tahu tribe (or “people of Tahu”) traces its lineage to the Polynesians who colonized Tonga around 1500 BC. Their descendants continued to explore and colonize the South Pacific, including Samoa, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Easter Island, and the North Island of New Zealand, whose inhabitants became known as the Māori. The Māori then began exploring the South Island (“Te Waipounamu”) and settled it in three waves. A son of one of these settlers, Tahu Pōtiki, is considered to be the father of the Ngāi Tahu. His descendants merged with other tribes until the Ngāi Tahu became the dominant South Island tribe.
Around 1795 the Ngāi Tahu experienced their first contact with Europeans in the form of whaling and sealing ships. Having a naturally entrepreneurial disposition, the tribe established a thriving business of provisioning whaling ships. In 1835 Ngāi Tahu chiefs granted permission for the opening of whaling stations on the island. The tribe also acquired whaling boats from the Europeans for use in fishing and establishing trade with Australia. Soon, British colonists were lobbying the Crown to allow settlements in New Zealand, while at the same time some Māori chiefs were seeking British protection from French forces. Thus, in 1850 the British and many of the Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, a dual-language document. Under its provisions, the Māori obtained the rights of British subjects, and their ownership of lands and possessions were recognized by the Crown, but the British government was alone permitted to purchase land. Disagreements over the text led to the so-called New Zealand Wars, a succession of armed conflicts between 1845 and 1872. Much of the Māori land was seized following the wars. The people sold other property legitimately but were swindled in other transactions, so that the Ngāi Tahu lost almost all of South Island during the latter half of the 19th century. The treaty was mostly ignored by the colonial government and in 1877 a court declared it null.
Following World War II, the Māori tribes began using the treaty to press claims against the New Zealand government, which led to the creation in 1975 of the Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission that interpreted the treaty and made recommendations to the government for the redress of claims. Representing the interests of the Ngāi Tahu was the Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board. It became involved in commercial activities on behalf of the tribe and by the late 1950s was generating NZD 20,000 in annual income. About two-thirds of its earnings were reinvested, largely in property, and the remainder dispersed to tribal members in the form of scholarships and education grants as a way to improve the tribe's long-term prospects.
In December 1992 Ngāi Tahu Holdings Corporation Limited was established as the tribe's commercial arm. One of its first major acts was the NZD 7.5 million acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Ryman Healthcare, a retirement community operator. In 1998 the NTH's main responsibility became the management of the NZD 170 million that was received as part of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act.
The NTH used some of the settlement proceeds to acquire in 1999 a 38 percent interest in Shotover Jet, a publicly listed outdoor adventure business that included the Shotover, Dart, Kawarau, and Waikato Rivers speedboat attractions, the Smile Click jet boat venture in Fiji, and the Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Subsequently, the NTH increased its stake to 49 percent and in 2001 gained an 80 percent controlling interest.
Other activities during the first three years following the settlement payment included investments in Dillon Point Properties, which owned six vineyards; Proseed, a tree seed provider; a Saxon sheep fiber company; and Whale Watch Kaikoura; as well as stakes in a court complex in Christchurch, several police stations, and other property investments. (Under the terms of the 1998 settlement agreement, the Ngāi Tahu received the right to buy some of the land and buildings used by police, the courts, and other Crown agencies.) In the meantime, Ryman Healthcare made a public offering of stock in 1999, and the tribe's investment doubled in value to NZD 40 million by 2001. That same year the NTH increased its revenues to NZD 106.1 million and posted a profit of NZD 5.3 million, a performance that although a significant improvement over the previous year was adversely impacted by a slump in New Zealand's tourism industry. Moreover, the tribe's allocation of NZD 800 million of fishery assets remained tied up, resulting in the steady erosion of wealth.
All the while, the NTH looked to the future. “Our core business is operated to protect and add value to natural resources,” Robin Pratt, the CEO of the NTH, told Vicki Jayne in New Zealand Management in May 2005. “You can't over exploit them. If you pillage the sea then you have a problem, so sustainability is not a fad for the tribe, it is the way you have to operate or it won't be there for your great grandchildren.”
In 2004 the NTH acquired the remaining shares of Shotover, which became a wholly owned subsidiary and was subsequently delisted from the New Zealand Stock Exchange. That same year the NTH completed several real estate projects; launched the Pacific Catch, a national seafood retail chain; and acquired Kaiteriteri Kayaks. For the year, the organization's total assets increased in value 16.9 percent, to NZD 515.9 million.
However, not everyone was pleased with the NTH's performance. A review of the organization was conducted in 2005, which led to Wally Stone's appointment as CEO. According to Jon Stokes in the New Zealand Herald in March 2007, he was appointed “to help resolve governance, management and financial problems within the tribe.” By then, the 18-member board of directors had become “paralysed,” with half supporting Chair Mark Solomon and half in opposition. In March 2007 Solomon was offered a NZD 300,000 payout to resign, which he rejected. The matter was further complicated with the death of Solomon's chief opponent on the board shortly before a meeting on Solomon's fate was to be debated.
Solomon managed to hold onto his position, but the internecine battles continued. It was Stone who left first, in February 2009. According to New Zealand Herald's Yvonne Tahana in a February 2009 article, “Payback for a past attempt to get rid of Ngāi Tahu leader Mark Solomon is how some iwi members are viewing Wally Stone's dismissal.” During Stone's tenure, the NTH had turned around a struggling fishing company and had increased the tribe's assets to more than NZD 600 million.
Despite Stone's departure, tribal strife continued. It was soon reported that Solomon, his deputy, and his deputy's assistant were in line for major pay raises. Next came the revelation that Solomon was planning to spend NZD 52 million on the construction of a culture center. Given the downturn in the global economy, Stone had been advising against any extraneous expenditures. In response to this revelation, seven tribal leaders banded together to demand changes in the governing body. Into the mix were thrown scathing emails and claims of hacked computers. During the fall of 2009 Stone returned to the fray and was elected unopposed as a representative to the board.
By that point the iwi was weary of the NTH's squabbling, and steps were taken behind the scenes to encourage the board to run more smoothly. Solomon's exit was not among the changes, however, and he continued on as chair. Despite the tensions, the NTH continued to expand. In June 2011 it had to contend with a natural disaster: an earthquake in Christchurch caused extensive damage to some of NTH's properties, including the corporate headquarters, which had to be relocated. The property and tourism divisions were also forced to move their offices. On a positive note, the Ngāi Tahu Seafood plant in Christchurch was able to maintain operations. For 2011 the NTH reported a loss of NZD 4.7 million.
The NTH rebounded in 2012, making significant improvements to its balance sheet. Its assets increased to about NZD 730 million. The following year the tribe received another NZD 68 million from the government in what were deemed “relativity” settlement payments. The NTH also received NZD 33.3 million in earthquake insurance payments.
In 2014 the NTH took steps to diversify its portfolio. It acquired the dairy technology firm Waikato Milking systems in partnership with another Māori tribe, Tainui Group Holdings, and Pioneer Capital. Waikato products were distributed in New Zealand and to more than 30 other countries. That same year the NTH and Tainui acquired Go Bus, New Zealand's leading passenger transport business, with the NTH holding a controlling two-thirds interest. Also in 2013 the NTH expanded its tourism division by acquiring the Queensland-based New Zealand Guided Nature Walks. The following year the NTH acquired a half interest in the manuka honey producer Watson & Son and a related company, ManukaMed, a developer of medical applications of manuka honey.
The NTH had become more than just the commercial arm of a Máori tribe. It had emerged as a major enterprise in its own right, one that required more professional management as it embarked on the next phase of its development. The recruitment firm Kerridge and Partners was hired, and in February 2018 the NTH board appointed Mark Tume as its new chair. With Tume bringing ample experience chairing and directing both listed and private companies in New Zealand and Australia, the NTH appeared well positioned for the future.
Ngāi Tahu Capital; Ngāi Tahu Farming; Ngāi Tahu Property; Ngāi Tahu Seafood; Ngāi Tahu Tourism.
NZSki Ltd.; Talley's Group Limited; Te Ohu Kaimoana.
Gibson, Anne. “Ngai Tahu Portfolio Shaken by Quakes.” New Zealand Herald (Auckland), August 31, 2011.
Jayne, Vicki. “Economic Renaissance: The Maori Challenge.” New Zealand Management, May 2005.
Stokes, Jon. “Sudden Death Delays iwi's Showdown.”New Zealand Herald (Auckland), March 17, 2007.
Story, Mark. “Maori Governance: Meeting the Cultural Challenge.” New Zealand Management, August 2005, S6.
Tahana, Yvonne. “Ngai Tahu Turmoil Turns Nasty.” New Zealand Herald (Auckland), March 12, 2009.
———. “Sacking Is Payback, Say iwi Members.” New Zealand Herald (Auckland), February 23, 2009.
Van Beynen, Martin. “Game of Thrones at Ngai Tahu: The Story behind Sir Mark Solomon's Demise.” Press (Wellington, New Zealand), May 7, 2016.