The Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA) held its 31st annual conference in Gisborne, from 2-3 November, 2018. FOMA is an organisation that was established in 1987 and provides the voice of Māori businesses to government and other authorities. Each year FOMA gathers its members for the annual general meeting and in conjunction holds a conference whose purpose is described as follows, as stated on the conference website:
“Sustainability is central to the future of Aotearoa. While others grapple with the challenges of balancing environmental, economic, social and cultural imperatives in volatile and uncertain times, FOMA provides certainty to its members through the principles of Te Ao Marama. Whānau, whenua, whakapapa and whaihua are the pou which have focused our attention and set our course for over 30years. FOMA31 is a showcase of some of the best business and economic minds in Aotearoa today – accomplished leaders who will share their experiences and achievements over two days in Tairāwhiti, the first place to see the sun; a new dawn of a new day for the world.”
This year it was a sold-out event and there was strong representation from our faculty of engineering. The Chemmat attendees were: Head & Assoc Prof Ashvin Thambyah, Assoc Prof Mark Jones, Dr Shanghai Wei, Catherine Dunphy and PhD student Emma Brown.
The conference consisted mostly of talks by invited speakers set within discussion panels. This format was extremely effective as it facilitated not only diverse views and experiences on a topic but also, a good degree of critical analysis and debate between speakers, and with the audience too. The hosting of each panel was superbly carried out and in many instances with a unique ‘flair’ that included a certain ‘Māori-style’ such as having a waiata after a panel discussion. Certainly a good way to end a serious topic and bring back the great collegial spirit that was present at the meeting.
As to what were some key take-home messages from the meeting? The terms innovation and thought leadership came up a few times at FOMA as direction and attributes that will take the Māori economy into a strong, sustainable and leading position for the future. Relevant to Chemmat were the emphasis on water, and its quality, and the future of the meat industries. Cleaning up our rivers and protecting our water resources aligned well with Chemmat’s strategic research emphasis on water treatment. As for the meat industries, while there was some celebration on the excellent demand for our beef and lamb, there was growing concern on the global trend for developing alternative meats. It was good that the community was thinking ahead and felt empowered. In fact, the optimism was best represented by a quote from a FOMA member saying: “We (Māori) are now in the driver’s seat of the bus, the job now is to move forward!” Chemmat is ready to be involved in moving that bus forward!