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Iwi groups and commercial property

The executive chairman of property, design and research specialist agency RCG, Paul Keane, discusses the imminent arrival of Ngai Tahu Property and what it means.

The announcement last week that the property arm of the South Island iwi, Ngai Tahu Property, are going to arrive in Auckland with a focus on housing activity would have sent the blood rising in some of the veins of local Auckland or nearby iwi. So are the days over from when iwi had a silent agreement with each other that they would not impinge on each other’s patch?  Are the 1800s forgotten as to territory ownership? Is this the end of close iwi relationships?

Despite what some people may think, the property arms of each iwi are independent, and they operate very much as commercial organisations. Staying and operating in one location can therefore have benefits, but it also has restrictions on growth.

The example of Ngai Tahu Property is an interesting one. They have been a very progressive property company, and they have developed properties throughout the South Island including all categories from office buildings, to residential subdivisions to shopping centres.

The portfolio has grown appreciably, but there must be limitations on the growth that can be achieved in just one regional area. Therefore the move to Auckland where they can gain further traction from the growth in the residential market is not surprising.

So is this disrespectful to local iwi? Not in our view. The opportunity is just that, growth from the housing market, and like any other investor/developer they want to make hay while the sun shines.

It is no different from a successful group like Willis Bond taking their residential success to Auckland and breaking into the waterfront apartment market. Some local developers were not happy to see them arrive, but we live (fortunately) in a democratic society so all opportunities must be taken where offered.

So is this likely to evolve further? Can we expect other iwi to expand out of their territories? Without doubt.

Most clear-thinking companies with a view to growth will focus on all development and investment opportunities and take what is on offer in any location. This is not breaking the mould of protecting territory, but rather moving into a commercial world where expansion leads to success.

It works both ways of course. Should Tainui, Ngati Whakaue or Ngati Whatua move south then the same measures will apply. May we continue to live in a democratic world and good luck to those who seek opportunities further afield! That is if they have the faith and confidence that they can make it work in somebody else’s patch!

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