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'Evolution', termed to serve some, not all.

Written by Mauriora Kaihau

The term ‘evolution’ often carries connotations of progress and development. Evolution happens over time and can be shaped by conflicts, political changes, major events, and economics.

But evolution can be subjective. Whose version of ‘evolution’ are we following? In the context of economies, it refers to the development and transformation of economic systems over time. Changes to structures, technologies, institutions, and the trade of goods and services. However, contemporary discussion regarding evolution reflects a westernised view often imposed by a history of colonisation and oppression.

Evolution from the lens of the conquerors.

This raises the question: are we all truly evolving, or is "evolution" merely a term used to serve the time, with only those in power advancing while the rest are left struggling to keep up?

The evolution of procurement

Within the practice of procurement, the evolution of the procurement profession has been flaunted as progress, shifting from relationship-based exchanges and concepts of producing 'simply enough' to profit-driven practices, strategic sourcing, and the pursuit of the best value for money. This is discussed as the evolution of procurement, but for whom?

This transformation has resulted in the abandonment of traditional cultural practices and values. Many non-Western cultures value relationship-building and producing only what is necessary. Yet, this so-called progress prioritises spending power and obtaining the best value for money, even at the detriment of others.  

Early Māori trade

Traditional Māori trade principles were deeply rooted in cultural values and principles that ensured prosperity, sustainability, and community well-being. Māori trade practices were sophisticated, including concepts of mana, whanaungatanga, koha and utu.  

Mana, representing authority and prestige was maintained by chiefs through trade, upholding their responsibility to their iwi. Whanaungatanga, the principle of building relationships was vital for connecting trade across iwi and providing for others when there was the abundance to do so. Koha and Utu the concept of giving and receiving, a grounding in goodwill and reciprocity, strengthened the bond between iwi and regions. These values underpinned Māori trade practices, facilitating extensive trading networks and harmonious coexistence. In retrospect, regions were evolving within their trade practices, but this evolution was inclusive, everyone was evolving together reliant on each other’s progress.

With European arrival however, Māori trade adapted to include goods and services desired by Europeans. This shift disrupted traditional Māori economic practices, introducing new concepts of commodification and profit-driven production. The commodification of goods and the pursuit of profit perpetuated the western extractive mindset which contrasted sharply with early Māori trade practices.

This accentuates the trickle-down effects of imposing westernised ideologies, particularly the introduction of money and its associated reverie. It reflects a shift in focus towards purchasing based on different values, such as prioritising the lowest price. This portraying the transformation of basic trade into a westernised concept: procurement. Never mind cultural preservation and resilient Indigenous communities, it’s about the money honey, and how it’s spent.    

Procurement today

For Māori, who’s economic and trade practices have undergone complex changes, the evolution of Western procurement practices does not always imply progress. Despite the supposed evolution of procurement, challenges persist for Māori businesses in New Zealand. Examples include exclusion from closed panels and tenders, sourcing suppliers through existing relationships without considering Māori businesses, and overall low engagement with Māori businesses.

This raises questions about whether evolution is a fitting term for where procurement is today and who is evolving as a result.  

Would our tupuna agree with this trajectory termed as evolution, or is it simply a term used to fit some?


The concept of evolution, particularly in the context of procurement, is not a straightforward progression towards improvement for all. The evolution of Western procurement practices has often come at the expense of Indigenous practices and values, leading to questions about whose interests are truly being served by this so-called evolution. One could argue its simply progress in the westernised world of economics. Its evolution for some, not all.


Firth, R. (2011). Primitive Economics of the New Zealand Maori. Routledge.

Petrie, H. (2006). Chiefs of Industry: Maori Tribal Entreprise in Early Colonial New Zealand. Auckland University Press.

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