Ngāi Tahu Treaty settlement subject of new UC study

27 October 2020

As the father of a nine-year-old daughter, David Tikao feels personally invested in how well his iwi organisation – Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu – is distributing wealth to beneficiaries and investing for future generations.

  • David Tikao

He is researching how the iwi shares the proceeds of its 1996 Treaty of Waitangi settlement with tribal members for his PhD in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Canterbury (UC).

Tikao has just received a Māori Research Grant from UC Business School towards the project. He also works for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as the Executive Director of Whai Rawa, a superannuation scheme for Ngai Tahu whānau that currently holds over $100 million in funds for about 30,000 members.

“Many iwi have settled historical grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi through the Waitangi Tribunal but a question in my research is how much of this acquired wealth or profits from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu investment is making its way into the pockets of stakeholders and beneficiaries,” Tikao says.

“In other words, how good a job are we doing at creating an entity that holds the money but also transfers it to our tribal members?

“I’m a registered member and the father of a daughter who is a Ngāi Tahu beneficiary so, for me, there’s a real focus on the successful intergenerational transfer of wealth.”

He is keen to hear from iwi stakeholders and beneficiaries about their perceptions and opinions of Ngāi Tahu and how it is distributing wealth.

“I would like to get feedback from people who are the missing voice of iwi, often not heard from directly due to their disconnection from their marae,” he says. “There are whānau who are falling through the cracks and dealing with inequality, unemployment and ill-health – what are they gaining from tribal asset growth?  

“My research aims to highlight how important it is for all tribal members to have their views on tribal wealth distribution acknowledged.”

Tikao hopes his PhD, due to be submitted at the end of next year, will help other tribes that receive Waitangi Tribunal settlements to manage and distribute their resources effectively.

To grow the tribe’s asset base for future generations, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has adopted a mix of investment and reinvestment in a broad portfolio including property, tourism, seafood, shares and exchange-traded funds. The protection of cultural assets is also a key consideration.

The iwi has already turned a $170 million settlement received in 1998 into a $1.5 billion asset base.

“We were one of the first to settle, so there are other iwi who can potentially learn from our experiences,” he says.  

Tikao’s research is being supervised by UC Ngāi Tahu scholar Dr Matthew Scobie (Ngāi Tahu), and UC Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Senior Research Fellow Dr John Reid (Ngāti Pikiao). Associate Supervision is by Dr Tyron Love (Te Atiawa), University of Auckland.

Canterbury University Press recently released A Long Time Coming: The story of Ngāi Tahu’s treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown, UC historian Martin Fisher’s account of the Ngāi Tahu settlement.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team,, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168