Our people

Meet the members of the Mira Szászy Research Centre for Māori and Pacific Economic Development with links to staff profile directory pages where available.

Kaitohu, Director


Associate Professor Mānuka Hēnare, BA(Hons), PhD (VUW), MInstD

Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī

Mānuka is a consultant and researcher in the private and Indigenous social enterprise sectors with a specialty in Māori business enterprise and development economics. He is Associate Professor in Māori Business Development in the Department of Management and International Business.  As the foundation Director of the Mira Szászy Research Centre he leads a number of multidisciplinary research project teams.

Mānuka is currently a member of the National Strategy for Financial Literacy Advisory Group, government appointee to the Manukau Institute of Technology Council, and the Council of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. He has advised government departments, local authorities and other institutions on bicultural policies and also served on government advisory committees on development assistance, peace and disarmament, archives, history, social policy, environmental risk management and a number of other ministerial appointments. Prior to his university career he was CEO of two national non-government organisations involved in international development, justice and peace, and has travelled extensively throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Research interests:

  • Māori philosophy and ethics (kawa atua, tikanga, ritenga) and jurisprudence.
  • Alternative economies with a focus on indigenous peoples' economies.
  • International sustainable development.
  • APEC and globalisation.
  • Innovation in the seafood, tourism and forestry sectors.
  • Social enterprise.
  • Spiritual capital.
  • The role of religion in economics and business.
  • Concepts of property, biotechnology, genetically modified organisms and Māori values.
  • Historical enquiry.

Visit Manuka’s staff profile page

Kairangihau, Researchers


Dr Carla Houkamau, PhD

Ngāti Porou – Te Whānau o Tuwhakairiora, Ngāti Kahunguni – Ngāti Kere
Carla joined the Department of Management and International Business in 2007 as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow, and is now a Senior Lecturer. She completed her PhD in Psychology at The University of Auckland under the Health Research Council Scholarship programme, as well as a Bachelor of Commerce (Conjoint) in Management and Employment Relations. Carla specialises in the areas of personal identity and diversity management. Her current research programme is concerned with the business case for diversity management: in particular, how diversity management can foster a positive work environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds while promoting employee engagement and productivity.

Research interests: Diversity management, inter-cultural communication, cross-cultural management, psychological (particularly social psychological) understandings of identity.

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Dr Chellie Spiller, PhD

Ngāti Kahungunu, Pākehā
Dr Chellie Spiller, of Māori and Pākehā lineage, is a senior lecturer and Associate Dean Māori and Pacific at the University of Auckland Business School. She has over 30 years of corporate experience in tourism, finance and marketing, holding senior executive positions in New Zealand and abroad, and brings this experience to her academic work and leadership and management development programmes. Her research explores how Māori and indigenous businesses create authentic and sustainable wealth and wellbeing.

Chellie was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School and the University of Arizona between November 2011 and March 2012. She is a recipient of a 2011 Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award, 2011 National Māori Academic Excellence Award, and 2010 AuSM Best Lecturer Award, AUT University. In 2013 she released a co-edited book with Professor Donna Ladkin titled Reflections on Authentic Leadership: Concepts, Coalescences and Clashes published by Edward Elgar Press, which was nominated in the top ten leadership books of 2013 (University of San Diego Outstanding Leadership Book Awards).

As well as being a co-editor of Indigenous spiritualties at work: Transforming the spirit of business enterprise she is authoring a book on traditional Polynesian navigation Wayfinding and Leadership. She is a co-editor on two special issues: “Intellectual Shamans, Wayfinders, Edgewalkers, Difference Makers, Social Entrepreneurs, and Other Change Makers” for the Journal of Corporate Citizenship and “Indigenous leadership” for Leadership.

Research Interests:
Value-capture, Sustainability, Transformatonal economics, Wisdom in Organisations, Ethics, Relational Wellbeing and Wealth, Authentic Leadership, Māori and Indigenous modes of business. 


Dr Rachel Wolfgramm PhD

Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Patumoana, Tonga
Rachel's training has been multi-disciplinary, incorporating the fields of organisation, consumption, leadership and economic theory and practice. She has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Management, Organisation Behaviour, Māori Enterprise, Sustainability, Business, Culture and Society, Business Ethics and Sustainability.

Rachel is currently investigating the “Romance of Sustainability; enchantment, illusion, entrapment and re-enchantment”. This is examined in the context of management, consumption and leadership theory and practice. She is also co-leading a longitudinal research project “Echoes from the future, status and sustainability in new lifestyle trends” and is supervising a cohort of postgraduate and doctoral students whose interests cohere around business in society and business futures.

Her research activity also includes Māori organisation and enterprise (with a recent focus on the dynamics of Māori careers and leadership in the creative industry), leadership for sustainability (with a specific focus on global initiatives involving universities) and spirituality at work.

Research interests: Sustainability, socio-economic trends, Māori organisation and enterprise.

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Christine Wood

Associate Professor Christine Woods

Kiwi born and bred, Christine's interest in entrepreneurship and the small to medium business sector (SMEs) was sparked after working in Malawi as a small business advisor. Instead of catching malaria Christine caught the entrepreneur bug, becoming "hooked" on the passion and energy that entrepreneurs bring to what they do.

Christine is a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland. I currently teach Foundations of Enterprise, a stage two paper in the Bachelor of Commerce and Māori Entrepreneurship, a component of the Postgraduate Diploma in Maori Business. Her research interests are in the area of family business, SME growth, social entrepreneurship and Maori entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial behaviour.

In 2003, she was instrumental, with the Postgraduate Students' Association, in establishing the Spark entrepreneurship challenge and am currently the faculty director of the Vision to Business Programme that is part of Spark.

I am also part of the direction team for The ICEHOUSE Business Growth Programmes and facilitate on the Owner Manager Programme and the Agribusiness programme. My consultancy work is with SMEs and Family Businesses in strategy development, learning and business growth. I am a Member of the Family Firm Institute.



Billie Lythberg, PhD, GradDipArts

Billie has a PhD in economic anthropology and art history, and a background in Māori studies and oral literatures. Her research interests are ‘gift exchange’ economics and Indigenous entrepreneurship. Her ongoing research in these areas continues work begun in her PhD thesis on the manufacturing and mobilization of Tongan decorated barkcloth in Tongan and Anglo-Western spheres of exchange and aesthetic appreciation.

She has contributed to Māori and Pacific research projects since 2002, recently as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2010-13), and through the James Henare Māori Research Centre and Mira Szászy Research Centre at the University of Auckland, Nga Pae o te Māramatanga, and Eastern Institute of Technology, Tairāwhiti. Recent projects include reports on Indigenous forestry and dairy farming; early Māori-Pākehā interactions in Te Taitokerau; the formation of, and motivation for, Māori entrepreneurial teams; sustainable innovation; and marae-based economic development.

Billie's art historical–anthropological specialism is Māori and Pacific ‘art’, from the earliest objects retained in private and museum collections to those being made today. She believes these can be understood as manifestations of economic vitality and objectives, and political priorities and aspirations, and are able to be read as oral histories. She has a particular interest in the power of taonga and other treasured objects to instantiate, define and nurture relationships between people, and across space and time.

Billie is currently contributing to theorising and activating ‘digital repatriation’ of Māori and Pacific artefacts held in museums overseas, and exploring the consequent ramifications for contemporary economic development. Recent projects include digital taonga repositories Te Rauata and KIWA; tracing, and reconnecting Māori and Pacific communities with, 18th and 19th century objects (some of them the only extant examples of their kind); theorising and curating an exhibition based on Tongan gift exchange; and co-authoring and co-editing volumes on the Pacific collections of Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, French explorer Bruni d'Entrecasteaux, and Spanish explorer Malaspina.


Amber Nicholson, BMD (AUT), BCom(Hons)

Ngāruahine, PhD Candidate
Amber is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland Business School and on the executive committee of the Business School Ngā Taniwha Māori Alumni network. Her current doctoral research 'Arohia te karanga o te hiringa: Heeding the call of energy' looks at Māori spirituality within business, specifically (at this stage anyhow) how the energy of ancestral landscapes shape business (or something). She completed a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honours in 2012 titled 'A Takarangi of Well-being: An Ambicultural Approach to Business and Economics'.

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Associate Professor Karen Fernandez, PhD, MBA, BCom

Karen is of Indian and Irish heritage and was born in Malaysia. She moved to New Zealand after completing her PhD in the United States. She joined the Business School in 2002. She is an Associate Professor of Marketing and is also her department’s Research Advisor. She Chairs the Business and Economics Faculty Equity Committee. Karen has been awarded a University medal for Sustained Excellence in Teaching and has published articles in leading international journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, the Journal of Advertising, the European Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Business Research. Karen’s key research stream uses ethnographic approaches to understand consumers’ relationships with their meaningful possessions across cultures. Her current research interests are in materiality and agency in the home. She has supervised completed PhD theses dealing with the authenticity of pounamu and smoking resistance in Tongan women.

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Koro Tawa, MCom(Hons)

Te Atiawa
Koro Tawa has returned to university to pursue an academic career founded in research, having accumulated over 10 years of IT experience. As a practitioner in the field, he has been involved in career positions that range from the technically specific skills of systems engineer and computer programmer, to the higher-level management skills of consultancy and project management.

He is currently lecturing in data communications in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM), and has been actively involved in the integration of industry certification within the programme.

Research interests: Network integration-distributed objects, data communications, object data modelling, e-commerce technologies.

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Dara Kelly

Dara Kelly, MCom

Stó:lō Coast Salish, PhD candidate

Dara Kelly is of Stó:lō Coast Salish heritage, and is a PhD candidate in the Department of Management at the University of Auckland Business School. She completed her Master of Commerce on the topic of Māori ancestral leadership, and her PhD research is entitled, Understanding the Impact of Economic Unfreedom on Traditional Ngāpuhi and Stó:lō Coast Salish Gift Economies: Illuminating Indigenous Economies using Amartya Sen’s Theory of Capabilities. The research explores two Indigenous economic philosophies in the Pacific: Coast Salish in BC, Canada, and Ngāpuhi of Tai Tokerau, Aotearoa New Zealand, and investigates economic unfreedom from restrictions on the ability to engage in Indigenous systems of economic exchange.

Research interests: Indigenous economy, economic unfreedom, gift economy, ancestral leadership, Indigenous leadership.

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Kiri Dell

Ngāti Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, PhD Candidate

Kiri is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland Business School and on the executive committee of the Business School Ngā Taniwha Māori Alumni network. She is the recipient of the Dean’s Senior Prize Meritous Award and Beta Gamma Sigma International Honour Awards in 2009, and Dame Mira Szászy Māori Business Leaders Award in 2011. Her doctoral research interest includes Māori competitive strategy and Western and Indigenous value creation strategies.

Hoa Kairangihau, Research Assistants


Mariaelena Huambachano, MMGT, PhD Candidate


Mariaelena is a PhD candidate from Peru (Quechua) at The University of Auckland in the School of Management and International Business - New Zealand.

Mariaelena has a Master of Management (with a major in International Business) from the School of Business, Massey University, Auckland - New Zealand. Mariaelena's PhD research topic: Is Indigenous knowledge able to contribute to food security?

She is investigating how the knowledge possessed by Indigenous people –Māori of Aotearoa and Peruvian Andeans – can contribute to improving food security. This comparative research focuses on the Māori principle of ‘Te Ātanoho' or ‘good life' and ‘Sumaq Kawsay', the Andean principle of ‘good living'. Her research explores traditional food production from an Indigenous perspective, Good living philosophies, economic resilience (whai rawa), and environmental sustainability (kaitiakitanga). As result she is developing a ‘Food Sovereignty Policy Framework’.

Mariaelena guides her research by the development of an Indigenous research framework that is grounded on the principles of Kaupapa Māori and Peru's bicultural protocol, tentatively referred to as the ‘Khipu Andean Model'.

Mariaelena has published in the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability and the Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Also, Mariaelena has published in book series, such as Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability by Emerald group Publishing.

Mariaelena is a researcher with the Mira Szászy Research Centre - Māori and Pacific Economic Development at the University of Auckland.  She has professional experiences in corporate sustainability, public policy as well as in the tertiary education area.

Mariaelena's research topics include sustainable development, Indigenous knowledge, climate change, corporate sustainability and countries heritage.

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Betty Ofe-Grant

Sāmoa, PhD Candidate

Betty is researching the possibility of a glass ceiling for Sāmoans and by extension Tagata Pasifika (Pacific people) at work in New Zealand.  Societal, organisational and systemic barriers are explored. Fa'aSāmoa (Sāmoan culture) is examined as an indigenous social system that may preclude Sāmoans' career advancement as a barrier or facilitator.

The results of this research have implications for Sāmoans and Tagata Pasifika, HR practitioners, government policy and other indigenous and ethnic minority groups. For this research, Betty has coined the term 'brown glass ceiling' as the perceived barriers that inhibit Sāmoans' entry into the upper echelons of the New Zealand work-force.

This research addresses the gap in the international literature relating to the South Pacific ethnic minorities that are employed in traditional Western environments and the challenges they encounter at work.