A consortium of iwi is reported to be in advanced talks over setting up a new supermarket chain, initially with between 20 and 30 stores, to take on Countdown and Foodstuffs.

Stuff, quoting “multiple sources”, says Waikato Tainui, through its commercial arm Tainui Group Holdings, and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, are leading the discussions. It has approached both for comment.

It says competition advocate Tex Edwards, who had previously envisaged partnering with iwi to establish a third player in the supermarket industry, is not believed to be involved.

The venture has got as far as commissioning designs for its supermarkets to assess costs and feasibility, and a well-known consulting firm is helping provide due diligence, according to one industry source.

Stuff says it is separately understood the iwi have been in negotiations with Commerce Minister Duncan Webb, who on Monday said a future Labour government could provide assistance, including government loans at sub-commercial rates, to new entrants in the groceries market. Waikato Tainui mentioned its ambitions in the grocery sector in its annual report in August, saying food sovereignty meant providing its people with more cost-effective options than were provided by the existing supermarket duopoly.

Stuff says Minister Webb declined to comment on the iwi venture but said talks he had were not exclusive.

“While I won’t comment on specifics as it would be commercially sensitive, there isn’t just one potential option. Conversations have already started with several players, and we are open to further interest from within New Zealand and overseas. We look forward to progressing work to increase competition in the sector to help drive down grocery prices in the next term of government.”

Stuff quotes a source with knowledge of the iwi venture saying it was not necessarily dependent on Labour being re-elected: “I think it would continue under National, but would just take a little bit longer. This will be a significant play, if it gets off the ground.”

Read the story here (possibly paywalled): https://www.thepost.co.nz/a/business/350085825/iwi-planning-new-supermarket-chain-20-30-stores-challenge-duopoly