Winners 2015

Meet the talented business leaders who received the 2015 University of Auckland Aotearoa Māori Business Leaders Awards at a ceremony held on 13 May 2016.

Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award

Sponsored by the University of Auckland Business School

This award recognises outstanding achievement by a graduate of the University of Auckland Business School, who has achieved significant success in his or her career.

Winner: Karen Vercoe

Karen Vercoe
Karen Vercoe

Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Hinekura, Te Arawa

Karen has extensive governance, organisational development and management expertise across industry sectors working with iwi, Māori and Pacific health and service providers.

As founder and managing director of KTV Consulting, her company has consulted to government agencies including the Ministry of Health, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Social Development ISO Capability Mentor programme. Fully qualified and endorsed in Results-Based Accountability (RBA), a data-driven discipline designed to benefit people and communities, Karen has worked closely with Whanau Ora collectives around the country to develop business cases and work programmes.

Karen’s governance experience extends across sports, health, community and iwi. She has served as an elected member on the Sports Fitness Recreation Industry Training Organisation Maori Board and the OSCAR Foundation.

Karen is currently the elected iwi chairperson of Te Pūmautanga O Te Arawa which is the Te Arawa Post Settlement Governance Entity."

Karen is a former New Zealand double international sportswoman in Rugby and Touch. Karen holds a Master of Management degree from the University of Auckland (2007) and was a recipient of the University of Auckland Kelly Research Scholarship (2006).

Young Māori Business Leader Award

Sponsored by Ngāi Tahu Holdings

This award recognises a young person (under 40) who has achieved significant success in his or her career to date and is a business leader now or in the future.

Winner: Jamie Tuuta

Jamie Tuuta
Jamie Tuuta

Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Te Atiawa, Taranaki Tūturu, Ngāti Maru

Jamie is the Māori Trustee and CEO of Te Tumu Paeroa. Te Tumu Paeroa protects and enhances Māori land and assets, administering 100,000 hectares of land throughout the country and managing a variety of investment interests.

Jamie has held a range of governance positions in the following sectors: Iwi development, agribusiness, fishing, investment, health, Māori development, tourism and education. He is a director of Aotearoa Fisheries, Wools of New Zealand and Taranaki Investment Management. He is the Chair of Te Ohu Kaimoana and is a board member of Tourism New Zealand.

He is the former chair of Parininihi ki Waitōtara, a large land-based farming business, Te Runanga o Ngāti Mutunga and the Ngati Mutunga ki Wharekauri Asset Holding Company. He is also a former director of Tuiora and Port Nicholson Fisheries a lobster export business. He was also a member of the Government appointed Investment Advisory Panel for the Primary Growth Partnership. He has extensive experience in Treaty settlement negotiations and was the Chair of the Taranaki Iwi Claims Leadership and also the Lead Negotiator.

Jamie is passionate about investing in innovation and increasing the economic and environmental performance of primary industries. He has a particular interest in developing the capacity and capability of the Māori.

Jamie is also a recipient of the 2010 Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leadership Award.

Māori Woman Business Leader Award

Sponsored by He kai kei aku ringa - The Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership

This award recognises a Māori Woman who has achieved significant success in her career and has demonstrated outstanding leadership characteristics.

Winner: Miriana Stephens

Miriana Stephens
Miriana Stephens

Ngāti Rarua, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui

Miriana was born and raised by her grandparents and her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (NZ History) and a Law Degree. She currently resides in Motueka and has four children.

Miriana is currently a director of Aotahi Limited (Aotahi) which is a Māori-owned and managed business that specialises in developing and managing educational programmes in the areas of small business and money management for communities throughout Aotearoa. Aotahi has also published three books that support small business and Indigenous business development.

Miriana is also a director for Wakatū Incorporation (Wakatū) and its subsidiaries. Wakatū is a family business of the land and sea. She is currently coordinating the innovation and investment programme across the group of Wakatū that is aligned with Te Pae Tāwhiti (the 500 year intergenerational plan of Wakatū) and achieving the goal of Wakatū of being at the forefront of Māori business, known as the leaders in innovation. Miriana is a trustee on Te Āwhina Marae, Motueka High School and has recently taken the role as vice chair for the Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa NZ.

Outstanding Māori Business Leadership Award

Sponsored by BNZ

This award recognises an organisation that is an outstanding leader by seamlessly integrating a range of social/community/ngā tikanga Māori activities with robust environment/sustainability practices, along with sound business performance and excellent governance, leadership, and management.

Winner: Ngāi Tahu Holdings

Ngāi Tahu Holdings (NTH) is the investment company of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. NTH is an intergenerational investor with an active approach to investment, managing assets and governance, guided by the tribe’s whakataukī “mō tātou, ā mō kā uri a muri ake nei – for us and for our children after us.”

NTH has achieved a period of record financial results over recent years, with assets now exceeding $1.4 billion and net worth of $1.2 billion. Importantly NTH has contributed approximately $400 million to help grow the wellbeing of Ngāi Tahu whānui, with expectations of achieving nearly $50 million in annual distribution next year. NTH has used profits to both grow existing businesses and to invest in new ones, to develop a diversified portfolio including farming and forestry, property, tourism, transport, seafood and mānuka honey.

NTH believes in quality governance and leadership. It operates under a clearly defined investment policy framework set by Te Rūnanga and has recently focused on aligning all of its businesses with this framework. There is a strong emphasis on selecting people who align with Ngāi Tahu values and NTH is currently developing a framework for governance capabilities to further support this.

NTH is a values based investor and looks to apply this in all its businesses. As part of this NTH, with the Office of Te Rūnanga, is developing an extensive sustainability reporting project titled “Manawa Kāi Tahu”, based on Ngāi Tahu values. Through NTH’s businesses a wide range of programs are supported which contribute further to iwi aspirations, from assisting with the development of directors with Ngāi Tahu whakapapa, to rearing kiwi chicks at its nature park Rainbow Springs.

Outstanding Māori Business Leader Award

Sponsored by the University of Auckland Business School

This award recognises an individual who demonstrates outstanding leadership characteristics including strong vision, inclusive management, governance skills, altruism, humility and making collaborative decisions for the common good.

Winner: Jason Witehira


A Foodstuffs trainee operator award in 1997 spurred Jason on to a successful career in the food and beverage industry, which he joined in 1984 at the age of 16.

Just a year after receiving that award, he bought a supermarket in Taumarunui. Today Jason owns one of New Zealand’s largest food retail outlets, Victoria Park New World Supermarket in Ponsonby, Auckland, and chairs the group that represents New World North Island supermarket owners.

Jason stands proudly at the vanguard of Māori supermarket ownership and innovation in Māori food and beverage businesses. He belongs to Nuku ki te Puku, Callaghan Innovation’s Māori economy programme which is fostering ideas for Māori businesses, building their networks and challenging their work practices. Being part of that programme inspired him to develop his governance skills for use within iwi.

Foodstuffs North Island sponsored Jason’s participation in a joint Fonterra/ Massey University governance programme. He’s also taken part in a Stanford University programme as part of the Te Hono Movement with other New Zealand food and beverage business leaders to investigate global opportunities for their businesses. For him, the emphasis was on the opportunities for Māori and his industry.

Jason has taken on governance roles that are helping him fulfil his vision of prosperity and respect on the global stage for Māori food and beverage businesses. Jason is a director of Ngāpuhi Asset Holdings Company and on the Foodbowl Innovation Board.