Wakatū chair Paul Morgan saw his parents invest in people — so he did the same

Paul Morgan is shaping the future by investing in current Māori leaders and training the next generation.

Words: Amokura Panoho  Photo: Daniel Allen


Tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Tūao Wharepapa mea Pukeone ngā maunga
Ko Te tai Aorere te moana
Ko Motueka te awa
Ko Ngāti Rārua te iwi
Ko Turangaapeke te hapū
Ko Te Āwhina te marae
Ko Turangaapeke te tupuna
Nō Whakatū āhau
Ko Pāora te Poa Karoro Mōkena tōku ingoa
Kei Wakatu Koporeihana ahau e mahi ana
Tēnā koutou katoa


Current: Chair of the Wakatū Incorporation (Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Tama)
March 2021: Inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame for his work as a Māori leader, lobbyist and entrepreneur at the centre of economic development and political advocacy for Māori for more than 30 years
2019: Te Tohu mō te Kaiārahi Whakahaere (Māori governance leader), Auckland University
1996 to 2007: Chief executive, Federation of Māori Authorities
2009: QSO for contribution to Māori
2009: Most influential Māori leader (non-government), The Listener

Vera Kirihau Warmington (Ngāpuhi, Te Māhurehure, Waimā) and Kiwa Morgan (Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa, Motueka) met in Wellington in 1937, part of a wave of Māori urban migration, established a building business in the city’s northern suburbs and had five children.

Son Paul recalls his young life among bulldozers and visitors from Northland or Motueka coming to work for, or do business with, his parents.

“I learned the value of whanaungatanga (relationships), manaakitanga (care and wellbeing), whakapapa (lineage) and the importance of investing in people. My parents were employers and trained many young people.”


Each treaty settlement is different, but all aspire to improve our people’s cultural, social, environmental and economic wellbeing. The establishment of our Te Tauihu, our intergenerational strategy, articulates how to be good ancestors and is woven into the Wakatū Incorporation — a key partnership with three local councils (Marlborough District, Nelson City and Tasman District), Ngā Iwi o Te Tauihu (Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne, Ngāti Tama, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Rārua), central government, the Nelson Tasman Regional Development Agency, the Nelson and Marlborough Chambers of Commerce, business, the community and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. This is a Māori-led strategy helping measure improvements and the regional performance of central and local government.

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The Wakatū Incorporation, connecting eight tribal entities, allows for investment in marae infrastructure and local whānau (families). We are starting to see the benefits — after early teething stages — of having effective governance and management in place.

Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy is greatly significant. This transformative vision for our rohe (region), arises from our communities’ combined voices articulating the long-term economic development strategy for the Top of the South (incorporating the Marlborough and Nelson-Tasman Districts). It leads the Marlborough District Council Economic Development Unit to focus on wellbeing outcomes.


My mother was a great advocate for employees to own their own homes. Most young men who worked for my parents were relatives trained by Dad as building apprentices. My mother introduced a compulsory savings scheme (which I nicknamed Vera Saver), and 10 per cent of their wages went into a savings account.

It was a requirement of working for my parents. At the time, it was culturally foreign for young staff to be putting down roots in a place other than their whenua (land). They feared it meant not returning to their kāinga (homes). Watching my parents deal with money taught me the importance of owning assets and building equity.

They contributed significantly to the Wellington community, were very active in Ngāti Pōneke and were strong fundraisers for Māori kaupapa, often tapping into their business and political associations for support.

I was 32 when I was elected to a governance role with Wakatū Incorporation. Even then, it was clear there were many things to address, including breaches of the treaty and our relationship with the Crown.

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Although a Crown requirement of tribal settlements is the complex and costly creations of legal entities to hold assets, we have seen the benefit of the Wakatū Incorporation in our region. Since 1977, when it started, it has led in building a people-rich organization.


The discipline of organizational culture, a subject that interested me at university, is about creating successful organizations by investing in people and building a critical mass of talent. This is an ongoing intergenerational process.

I have been applying this thinking in the different organizations with which I have been involved — Māori, public, private and start-ups. It frustrates me that New Zealand still has a lot of work to do in this area.

When I first started at Wakatū, I had many elders around me, which provided a fantastic opportunity to learn. Over a long period, I’ve had the good fortune to study many leaders, many of whom are Māori women.

Leaders will be successful if they guide their people, communicate and meet challenges straight on. Some can do that better than others, depending on their experience, their nature and the environment.


There is uncertainty in terms of geopolitical issues affecting our country. Māori cannot let the mainstream dominate New Zealand’s foreign relationships as indigenous knowledge is becoming more important globally.

Iwi Māori also must migrate to more knowledge-based activities, focusing on science, technology and digital industries. These industries are more resilient than low-skilled occupations. We need a deliberate strategy to achieve higher levels of education.
By nature of our location and settlement history, we engage with the wider community in terms of property investment and the aquaculture industry. But we are still evolving from passive to active investors and becoming job-makers.

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I want to tap into people’s knowledge and wisdom, especially those retiring to our Te Tauihu region of Nelson, Picton, Motueka and the wider Marlborough area. If they wish to share their expertise, we will find the opportunity for them to mentor emerging businesses and leaders. I am sure they will gain much in return.

The Ngāti Pōneke Māori Club began in the 1930s as an offshoot of the Ngāti Pōneke Mission Society to support Māori living in Wellington City away from their tribal homelands. Named by Māori leader and politician Sir Apirana Ngata, “Pōneke” is a transliteration of “Port Nicholson” and was Ngata’s way of signaling that the club was open to all Māori, not iwi-based. The Wakatū Incorporation, based in Nelson, manages a diverse portfolio (worth more than $400 million) of aquaculture, vineyards, wine, orchards, large retail developments, food manufacturing, residential properties, office buildings and marine farms. The goals is to preserve the land and resources for future generations — He taonga tuku iho.

The Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy can be found at tetauihu.nz

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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