Business Time

Huia Publishers Share Beautiful Stories

Huia Publishers is a Maori owned independent publishing company, sharing the beautiful stories and lives of the people of Aotearoa since 1991. Today they have 130 books in print with a Māori or Pacific perspective and publish up to 20 titles a year, giving Māori and Pasifika an opportunity to reflect and share their experiences. Executive Directors Brian Morris and Eboni Waitere tell us about the flow-on effect of the work they do.

Having a successful business that produces a load of great social outcomes at the same time isn't something all publishers can enjoy but Huia Publishers is unique. Their recent Children and Young Adult Award is one of many they’ve won for helping New Zealanders to engage with their indigenous language. Brian says: 

“It’s helping them be comfortable with the language and accept it’s a part of this country. It adds to people’s idea of being Kiwi.” 

Eboni says having a channel for Māori publishing inspires authors to publish and helps people grow as writers, illustrators, designers, editors and translators. “It’s wonderful when we see our authors published and making their families and iwi proud. They’re a really important part of what we do, it makes it easy to get up in the morning and go do what we do.”

For 20 years Huia has been pushing the boundaries of Māori publishing, but there are still plenty of new challenges out there. They recently produced a Māori language monolingual learner’s dictionary for schools – the first of its kind. They’ve also been translating classics like Where The Wild Things Are and The Gruffalo. “They’re published in all languages all over the world so why not Māori?” asks Brian.

Recently the South Pacific’s best-known poet and novelist Albert Wendt approached them to be his publisher and that opened the door to Pacifica publishing. Huia has just launched Tautai, a biography co-published with the University of Hawaii Press. “We’ve developed a relationship with other Pacifica organisations that have the same aspirations."

"We want to add to the tapestry of voices here in Aotearoa.”

But the best motives in the world don’t pay the bills and Brian’s experienced eye is trained on projects that don’t only support their purpose – they have to sell. “Everyone who comes to us with a manuscript, they all believe that it’s going to be a best seller. Balancing people’s aspirations with the reality of what is marketable, that’s the real challenge. At the same time, we’re always ensuring our people have got enough work so you’ve got cash flow.”

On banking with a Kiwi bank

Not surprisingly, keeping their profits here in Aotearoa was an important factor in their choice of bank. “It’s really important for Kiwi businesses to support each other and it was important for us to look at a New Zealand-owned bank. Jayden from Kiwibank came and met with Brian and I early on in the piece” says Eboni. Working with different print houses offshore, they also needed a bank that took the pain out of international transactions. 

“We have offshore suppliers and partners and Kiwibank’s online system was simple so we didn’t have to muck around with fussy processes.”

She says they’re all about the personal relationship. “We like the human contact, the human face and like to be able to talk to the person managing our relationship. Jayden provides advice, has really been a great help and we feel that he’s working with us. I feel like he’s a safe pair of hands. Often I call him with a list of things." 

"He’s proactive at helping us help other groups, like the kōhanga or other social enterprises that are part of our organisation.”

The team turned up en masse at the launch of their book 'Haka'. Eboni and Brian say it's actions like this that make them truly feel part of the Kiwibank team.

When Kiwi businesses join Kiwibank, Kiwibank joins them - we know that when it comes to what drives you, it's not just business, it's personal. 

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