How well does New Zealand’s financial system serve the Maori community?

Roanna McLeod and Victor Lam in this RBNZ research analyse how well the local community of Maoris is served by financial system. The paper evaluates the role of iwis, largest group amidst Maori society play in providing financial services:

In this paper, we aim to examine whether the financial system is adequately meeting the needs of all New Zealanders, in terms of financial inclusion, literacy, and security, with a particular focus on the Māori community. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of how the Māori economic world fits into the wider financial system that the Reserve Bank oversees.

Māori are faced with below-average levels of financial inclusion comparative to other New Zealanders; we explore some of the reasons for this, as well as some of the arrangements that iwi have used to increase access to financial services for their members.

This paper offers some insights into the financial services institutions and arrangements provided by iwi to assist their members in achieving greater financial inclusion, literacy and security. The main arrangements include marae insurance, health insurance, shared equity housing, and savings schemes.

One possible explanation for the existence of such arrangements is that iwi may have identified a gap in the financial needs of the Māori community that the mainstream financial industry in New Zealand does not adequately address. Furthermore, though some of these services provided by iwi are simply alternatives to those readily accessible in the market, it is evident that having iwi as the facilitator of the arrangements is highly beneficial for the Māori community and encourages higher participation rates in financial services than might otherwise have been observed among Māori.

Belonging to an iwi and the collectivism that comes with it presents itself as a strength in addressing financial inclusion, literacy and security in the Māori community. The examples of financial services institutions and arrangements outlined in this paper would not exist without iwi leveraging their position to act on behalf of their members. By acting as a focal point for the Māori community, iwi have been able to come up with creative solutions to improve the wellbeing of their members. Iwi have also shown an ability to bridge the financial literacy gap by facilitating budgeting and other financial support services for their members. The iwi structure is unique to Māori and allows them to collectively improve their financial wellbeing. Therefore, understanding how the financial services industry and iwi can collaborate more effectively will be an important part of ensuring the financial needs of the Māori community are met going forward.

 

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