The Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Story

A man and woman in traditional Māori clothing and holding taiha stand on the shores of Lake Taupō

© Squared Away Ltd.

Māori of Te Moana-nui-a-Toi

Māori are constitutionally and economically important partners and contributors to the Te Moana-a-Toi region and its economy. The region has the third-largest Māori population in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In 2018, 29% of the total regional population (349,242) were of Māori descent (111,213). Māori population has been counted by Māori descent as opposed to Māori ethnicity. As Statistics NZ explains, “A person is of Māori descent if they are the descendent of a person who has Māori descent or ancestry (these terms are used synonymously). The term Māori descent is based on a genealogical or biological concept, rather than on cultural affiliation to the Māori ethnic group”. In 2013, just over 16% who identified as Māori descent did not identify ethnically as Māori.

Virtual Health Information Network(external link) — VHIN

In comparison, only 26% of tangata Māori (101,064) ticked the Māori ethnic option in the region.

Nearly 60,000 Māori reside in our two large centres, Rotorua (30,387) and Tauranga (28,995). The Rotorua tangata Māori population is high at 40% of its total population compared to Tauranga, which is 19%. The Maori populations in Ōpōtiki and Kawerau are significantly higher as percentages, 64% and 62% respectively; however, the numbers are lower at 6,123 and 4,521 respectively. Taupō District’s Māori (11,118) are 30% of total population.

Rangatahi Māori make up 15.7% of the Te Moana-nui-a-Toi Māori population. Population projections show that the rangatahi population will double by 2036 to 32%. Over 23,000 Māori students in schools make up 44% of all students in the compulsory education sector. Although the gap between Māori and non-Māori has dropped from 25% in 2009, to 15% in 2020[6], the gap needs to continue to close for rangatahi Māori aspirations to be realised.

The Te Moana-a-Toi pakihi Māori (Māori business) profile is unique too. Pakihi Māori make up 12% of businesses compared to 6% nationwide. The number of pakihi Māori have increased from 399 to over 3,000, including Māori sole traders and significant employers of Māori. 12% of all businesses in the region are also above the national average as ‘significant employers of Māori’.

Although the Māori population is significant in the region, Māori are lagging in the labour market. There is an opportunity to build Māori capability through targeted programmes to allow Māori to thrive.

Whānau are role models and provide support for rangatahi. The region hosts 87 Kōhanga Reo, 12 Kura Kaupapa Māori and 15 Kura-a-Iwi – all of whom form a vital tapestry of support to guide rangatahi Māori to be proud of who they are; and to ensure continuity and recognition of mātauranga Māori in the Te Moana a Toi region. There is much opportunity for continued collaboration amongst whānau, hapū, iwi, hapori, kura, schools, businesses, industries and government who all have important roles to play in supporting whānau to support rangatahi Māori. whānau

The region’s workforce

Te Moana-nui-a-Toi is the name of our region. Te Moana was named after the ancient ancestor, Toi-te-Huatahi. The region covers the tribal areas of 28 iwi, the largest number of iwi within any regional council territory in Aotearoa/New Zealand. These iwi are mana whenua of the region and are represented by 35 iwi authorities and/or iwi rūnanga, more than 160 hapū and more than 220 marae organisations that represent Māori in various ways, including culturally, politically, socially, and commercially. Māori from hapū and iwi across Aotearoa/New Zealand, referred to as mātāwaka, are also a significant part of the region’s Māori population.

The name Bay of Plenty was coined by James Cook in the early 1800s, in acknowledgement of the abundant food supplies in the region. The Bay of Plenty region is traditionally subdivided into territorial authorities, which include the Western Bay of Plenty District, Tauranga City, Whakatāne District, Kawerau District and Ōpōtiki District, as well as parts of Rotorua District and the town of Rangitaiki in Taupō District. The Bay of Plenty Regional Skills Leadership Group scope also includes all of the Taupō District[7] and reflects the Waiariki electorate boundary.

As at March 2021, the region had a resident population of just over 388,000[8], with just over 108,000 (28%) people identifying as Māori, just under 11,000 people of Pacific decent.[9]

Our labour market needs better coordination at a regional level, with more aligned decision-making by employers, workers, educators, schools and agencies. This work cannot be done from afar. It must be led by people who are passionate and informed about improving outcomes for their region, and who have the standing in the region to help bring about the changes required. This is why the regionally led model, with fifteen RSLGs, has been chosen by the Government to deliver this change. It is my intention that RSLGs will play a critical role in making New Zealand a more inclusive, sustainable and productive place to work and live.

Minister of Social Development and Employment, Carmel Sepuloni, September 2021

Labour market overview

There has been a significant reduction in the number of people aged 15 years or over in the Bay who have no formal qualification, down from 40% a decade ago to 19% in 2021(18% nationally). There is also a more highly skilled workforce than a decade ago with 21% of working age people in the Bay holding a Level 7 qualification, up from 11% a decade earlier. Those with Level 7 qualifications are most likely to live in Tauranga and Rotorua (Infometrics Ltd, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic summary); the two largest employment areas which offer the greatest diversity of employment opportunities.

Māori in the region are more likely to be labourers, operators and drivers, however 3,000 more Māori have been employed as managers and professionals over the past five years (Infometrics Ltd, 2020. Bay of Plenty regional economic summary). Much of this growth has been in the Western Bay and Taupō. There has been slower growth in the Eastern Bay.

Over the next five years, there is strong employment growth forecast in the higher skilled manager and professional roles (other business services) nationwide and regionally (Infometrics Ltd, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic summary). Rangatahi Māori can achieve in these areas if everyone plays a role in supporting them to aspire to these roles and to ensure they have the educational and training opportunities to embrace these opportunities.

The growing region is experiencing shortages in various workforce and skills areas, as a result of changes driven by technology adoption. COVID-19 has also caused distress for sectors typically reliant on an international migrant workforce. At a local level, the seasonal nature of work in the horticulture sector still impacts on its ability to attract and retain workers.

The Bay of Plenty forestry sector is experiencing skills shortages across the entire supply chain. Several roles have been identified by the sector as being ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to fill.

As can be seen in the economic analysis, the Health and Social Assistance sector is growing. However, only 4% of Bay of Plenty school leavers go on to study health. Only 3% of Māori follow this study route, meaning Māori will continue to be under-represented in the health workforce (Infometrics Ltd, 2020. Bay of Plenty regional economic summary).

An aerial view of the Mount Manganui township at dusk

© Priority One

Business and industry

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing are significant contributors to the Bay of Plenty economy (10%) based on ANZSIC code analysis. However, the biggest industries in the Bay also include Health Care and Social Assistance (7.0%) as well as Professional, Scientific and Tech services (6.4%) (Infometrics, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic profile).

The number of employees in the Bay shows a different picture to the GDP contribution analysis. Health Care and Social Assistance, together with Construction, each employ 10.6% of the region’s population while the wider primary industry employs 10.1% (Infometrics, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic profile).

As in most other regions in the ‘Golden Triangle’, Construction has created the most jobs in the last decade with an increase of just over 7000 roles. Workforce planning projections indicate this labour market will peak by mid-2023 and experience a steady decline through to the end of 2025 (Infometrics, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic profile).

Although self-employment rates have been dropping since the early 2000s, the region’s largest industries still have a high proportion of self-employment, with nearly one third of workers being self-employed in the Construction sector and more than a quarter being self-employed in the primary sector (Infometrics, 2022. Bay of Plenty regional economic profile).

Future workforce

Western Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupō and the Eastern Bay of Plenty face different demographic and economic challenges but the global labour market mega trends will impact them all. A higher skilled workforce and focus on lifelong learning will be required to deliver a prosperous future and to this end it is vital the region’s tertiary education system aligns its performance with its needs.

Young Māori are crucial to the future wellbeing of the region, and it is therefore critical to increase Māori engagement and participation in tertiary education and knowledge intensive industries such as science, engineering, professional services, and creative industries. In addition, critical general capabilities like invention, innovation and entrepreneurship are important skills that will drive the region’s future economic success.

The future workforce will be shaped by our population growth and demographics. The Bay of Plenty is estimated to be home to 420,000 people by 2038 with a higher proportion of older people relative to the rest of New Zealand. In 2018, 7.35% Māori were over 65 years in comparison to 18.45% of the total population of the region. This will change by 2038 due to the growing, youthful Māori population. In 2018, the median age of the region was 40.2 years and the Māori median age was 26.5 years. Currently, rangatahi Māori (15–24-year-old cohort) make up 15.7% of the growing Māori population. This percentage will double by 2036 to 32%.[10]

Advances in technology, including Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, are likely to see construction techniques move closer to manufacturing processes which will change the skill demand profile for this industry, particularly in Tauranga. Advances in technology are also likely to materially impact on all the sub-sectors in the primary industries, resulting in greater demand for technology and scientific skills.

The region needs to resolve the persistent digital skills and connectivity issues in some sub-regions in order for the benefits from these changes to be equitably shared.

The influence of climate change will be felt across the region and specifically in those communities where the economy is dependent on natural resources.


[6] | Bay of Plenty Region – School qualifications: NCEA Level Three(external link) — Ministry of Education

[7] | Māori electorates: Waiariki(external link) — Electoral Commission

[8] | 2018 Census Place Summaries, Bay of Plenty Region(external link) — Statistics New Zealand

[9] | 2018 Census Place Summaries, Bay of Plenty Region(external link) — Statistics New Zealand

[10] | 2018 Census Place Summaries, Bay of Plenty Region(external link) — Statistics New Zealand