An Auckland Council programme that supports MÄori and Pasifika businesses has seen a 90 per cent increase in the value of the contracts it has helped local businesses win and has more than doubled the number of businesses it supports since the COVID-19 lockdown.

The He Waka Eke Noa programme is run by the council’s innovation unit, The Western Initiative. He Waka Eke Noa works with MÄori-and Pasifika-owned businesses to help them to fairly participate in the tendering process and to win contracts and place staff into employment in industries such as infrastructure and construction.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns, He Waka Eke Noa had helped to procure around $22 million worth of contracts and had about 120 businesses on its books after two years of operation. Since the lockdown, another $20 million worth of contracts has been secured, and 314 businesses are now registered with the programme.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff visited The Western Initiative and some of the businesses it supports on Wednesday, alongside WaitÄkere ward councillors Linda Cooper and Shane Henderson.

“The Western Initiative has, through He Waka Eke Noa, been working with MÄori- and Pasifika-owned businesses, helping them to grow by facilitating greater access to supply chains and markets,” Mayor Goff said.

“Auckland Council was the first organisation in the country to implement supplier diversity with Maori and Pasifika businesses and social enterprises. Auckland Council’s investment in He Waka Eke Noa when it was established in 2018 was $1.8 million in seed funding over two years. From the initial outlay of $275,000, some $40 million of contracts has been secured.

“As a further example, around 500 jobs have been created by eight businesses registered with He Waka Eke Noa thanks to their securing contracts with the Link Alliance to carry out work on Auckland’s City Rail Link project.

“These results demonstrate the success of the He Waka Eke Noa programme and speak to the economic and social benefits we can foster by supporting MÄori and Pasifika entrepreneurship,” Phil Goff says.

Waitakere Councillor Shane Henderson says, “He Waka Eke Noa has been involved in 60 different contracts with more than 30 different buyers to date and is involved in a current tendering pipeline of $900 million. It is about giving MÄori and Pasifika businesses a seat at the procurement table, in order to competitively bid in the tender process.”

Fellow WaitÄkere Councillor Linda Cooper adds, “This helps homegrown businesses succeed, leading to increased employment, and increased funds into our local and national economy.”

Alex Hawea, from the The Western Initiative, agrees.

“He Waka Eke Noa was built to support the MÄori and Pacific economy and has done exactly that. In an economic climate when MÄori and Pasifika businesses normally fare worse, this programme has enabled them to thrive,” he says.

The Western Initiative was launched in 2018 and aims to improve the prosperity of west Auckland communities, including reducing youth unemployment. It supports businesses to generate quality jobs and supports west Aucklanders into those career opportunities.

He Waka Eke Noa is a programme that connects MÄori- and Pasifika-owned businesses with public sector, private sector, iwi and non-government clients and buyers wanting to purchase goods, services and works. It currently works with more than 300 businesses, and 30 per cent of the Auckland businesses are based in west Auckland.

As a result of support from The Western Initiative and He Wake Eke Noa, numerous west Auckland businesses have won significant contracts. These include the Iconiq Group, which has won a significant contract to work on the City Rail Link and as a result will create more than 120 jobs; and its subsidiary Passafe, a fire protection company, which has taken on nine new apprentices since the COVID-19 lockdown, most of whom were placed by The Western Initiative.