Government figures show almost half of Maori in the Northland iwi region of Te Tai Tokerau are not working and are not looking for a job.
Figures compiled by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show 44.9% of Maori are neither working nor seeking work.
The number includes some who are unable to work, like students or mothers, but is still much higher than the national average of 31.7%.
Auckland University's Business School professor Manuka Henare, a former Northlander, says many in the region have given up altogether on getting work because the jobs simply don't exist.
However, the chairman of Northland iwi Te Rawara, Haami Piripi, is hopeful the situation will improve once its treaty claim is processed next year and can invest in businesses which will create opportunities for its people.
The Government says Northland Maori need to exploit their oil, gas and mineral resources to bring more jobs to the region.