Keith Palmer the CEO of Wakatu Incorporated filled us in on the latest happenings at the very progressive Nelson family Company.
It has $280 million worth of assets. Its ownership can only be held within the original 254 family groups (3000 people) who own between them 10 million shares in the 170 year old company.
The families came to Nelson from the Waikato area before our Pakeha forebears had arrived here.
At the time of the Treaty of Waitangi when the Government annexed the land 10% of the land purchases in the area were meant to be retained in Maori ownership. Unfortunately our forebears couldn’t count and sold them short many times. Wakatu only ended up retaining 3000 hectares out of 151,000 hectares sold, they should have retained 15100 hectares.
The short fall is subject to a Waitangi Tribunal claim going on at present. All the same they haven’t stood still in developing their assets and income especially in recent years.
Wakatu has invested heavily in forestry, wine production, seafood processing, exporting seafood, mussels and crayfish, joint ventures with overseas companies, established a product development and research centre at the Glen, are in joint projects with Sealord and several subdivision developments.
Two of the companies they own are Tohu Wines and Port Nicholson Fisheries, they have now sold out of forestry as it was not looking so good.
Their company is structured with very close ties to Maori values consisting of:
Integrity, commitment, care, innovation, communication, using priciples based on Maori customary practice and relationships. About 30 young Maori have already been put through university and are out in the work place earning and learning how to run other companies. They will be the future owners and managers of this dynamic company once they have served their apprenticeships in the employ of others.
The aim is to have leadership that is strong, flexible and communicative and have a “we do what we say” attitude. To provide direction and opportunity, provide team leadership not just have single leaders. The company must not fail it is for paying future dividends and to be retained for future generations. Borrowings are very conservative never more than 25% exposure of the company.
One of the planned future projects is to set up in Tahunanui a village heart on the Ocean Lodge site which they own.
Many company meetings with the share holders are held and the young people are encouraged to give input. Their philosophy is to have 50 year plans not 10 year plans, because this is not a short term operation.
Subdivisions in South Motueka are planned along with the present Richmond ones already happening.
Keith has been at the helm since the late 80s and has helped grow the asset base value tremendously since then from just a few million to 280 million.