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Background and context

This chapter sets the context for our interviews.

Review of the statistical standard for iwi

The immediate need for this report has come from an ongoing review of the statistical standard and classification for iwi. As part of this review, we wanted to better understand:

  • how government agencies are engaging with Māori 
  • the nature of the Māori entities and organisations they are engaging with
  • how this engagement might evolve 
  • the extent to which the Māori entities that agencies engage with align with the concepts and categories in the iwi classification.

Crown-Māori engagement and the history of the iwi classification

We collected data specific to Māori populations in early censuses but stopped in the late 19th century.

The current iwi classification was established in 1991, driven largely by government’s statistical information needs around the Treaty of Waitangi and Fisheries settlements – two key Crown–Māori engagement issues that were emerging and topical at that time.

The development of the classification for iwi was also driven by the 1988 Report of the Review Committee on Ethnic Statistics (Department of Statistics, 1991), which recommended that:

…the Departments of Statistics and Māori Affairs develop a standard classification of tribal affiliation.

During this time, the government was also examining ways in which government programmes were delivered to Māori.This examination looked at the idea of transferring some functions from the former Department of Māori Affairs to iwi-based organisations (Department of Statistics, 1991).

At that time ‘iwi’ was recognised as being the most suitable unit for engagement and statistical categorisation, because (Statistics NZ, nd, a):

… The iwi today is the focal economic and political unit of the traditional Māori descent and kinship based hierarchy of:

Waka (founding canoe)
Iwi (tribe)
Hapū (sub-tribe)
Whānau (family)

All these matters culminated in the need for a greater understanding across government of the Māori population and hence the iwi classification was developed (Department of Statistics, 1991).

Much has changed since the iwi classification was first developed, almost 25 years ago. For example:

  • interactions with Māori across the Crown have changed in frequency and nature since 1991
  • the type of Māori entities the Crown works with, and the nature of those interactions, has become more varied and complex
  • over half the historical Treaty settlements have been settled with the Crown, leading to new post-settlement governance entities, and new groupings and partnerships amongst Māori claimant groups.

This means that the engagement and work undertaken has evolved, and the statistical information needs – both for the Crown and for Māori – have changed (Statistics NZ, in press).

We acknowledge concerns with how the collection of iwi statistics has affected Māori – particularly around how the classification may be seen as determining who is, and who isn’t, an iwi. At the same time, concerns have also been raised as to whether iwi are still the most appropriate and suitable grouping/entity for classification and engagement (Pare Consulting Ltd, 2010).

It is against this background that we have conducted these interviews on the nature of Crown-Māori engagement.


Māori development

Nowadays, the consideration of Māori rights and interests and the Treaty of Waitangi is common in legislation and institutions across the country. This recognition has strengthened the place of both Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi, and wider consideration of Māori values and rights and interests, in New Zealand society.

A move from adversarial to stronger working relationships focused on mutual benefit between Māori entities and central and local government has also become more common. Māori groups are working more closely with central government around issues of common interest. This is especially evident with settled Māori claimant groups that have established formal relationships with ministers and agencies through their Treaty settlements (Bennett, 2013). At the local government level, Māori entities have developed close ongoing working relationships with their local councils around local planning and resource management issues (Te Aho, nd; Auckland Council, nd).

At the same time, Māori are playing a more active and influential role in all areas of society. This is currently most evident for economic development – Māori and Government are working closely to try and maximise the economic potential of the growing Māori asset base and economy. The key work at present is being led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Te Puni Kōkiri, guided by He kai kei aku ringa: The Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership (Māori Economic Development Panel, 2012b).

Māori entities are becoming increasingly focused on taking a more proactive and leading development role (Māori Economic Development Panel, 2012a), and this is particularly evident with those Māori claimant groups that have settled their historical Treaty settlement claims:

… Post-settlement iwi are continuing to build their capability to plan, execute and progress plans to achieve their own aspirations. They have a desire to address the complex social, cultural, economic and environmental issues facing their people…

… Treaty settlements have allowed some iwi to become major drivers of local and regional economic growth, and this trend is likely to continue as the remaining settlements near completion…
(Statistics NZ, in press).

Māori are making a significant contribution across the economy. In particular, the asset base of Māori employees, self-employed Māori, and Māori employer groups is estimated to be much larger than the Māori assets owned collectively, which are only a small portion of the Māori (and indeed the New Zealand) economy (Māori Economic Development Panel, 2012b).

It is within this much more widespread and dispersed grouping that the greatest potential exists:

The potential of the Māori contribution to the national economy through a growing proportion of the workforce, productivity and asset development that will see the Crown become increasingly dependent on Māori economic success.
(Māori Economic Development Panel, 2012b).

The emergence of Māori as more active and influential stakeholders in both the national and local context also suggests that their own statistical needs may be evolving as they seek to become more active leaders and developers. This trend will continue as more settlements are completed and stakeholders, particularly government agencies, enter into partnership-type arrangements with Māori entities (Ministry of Justice, nd).

In regards to Māori development, there is a shift in the relationship and dependency between the Crown and Māori. Not only are working relationships between the Crown and Māori becoming more common, but there is also a growing realisation that the Crown is becoming more dependent on Māori and Māori development to achieve the nation’s goals (Māori Economic Development Panel (2012b).

Close working relationships between government and Māori are also becoming more prominent in the health, education, and social sectors. The cross-government programme Whānau Ora is integrating and devolving service delivery of health, education, and social services to Māori service providers (Te Puni Kōkiri, nd). Māori involvement in service delivery in these sectors is not new, but Whānau Ora is pushing the boundaries for Government around coordination and delivery across the various sectors. Whānau Ora is placing greater responsibility on Māori for their service delivery (Office of the Auditor-General, 2015), as well as placing greater responsibility on Government to take a more ‘whānau-centric’ perspective (Te Puni Kōkiri, nd).


Statistics about and for Māori

When considering the official statistics system, it is important to note that there are two types of information regarding Māori:

  • statistics about Māori 
  • statistics for Māori.

Statistics about Māori focus on the similarities or differences between the Māori population and the general population, and how Māori compare with other ethnic groups and the total population. Māori and the Crown are able to use this data to compare Māori progress against the general population or other sub-populations (Statistics NZ, 2014).

Statistics for Māori enable Māori well-being and development led and determined by Māori to be measured. They focus on how Māori interpret and value the world, the activities they do, and what makes them unique (Statistics NZ, in press; Gleisner, Downey, & McNally, in press).

Statistics for Māori are becoming more important. Māori are developing their own plans and strategies for development –good data and information will be required to guide and support this development. Crown agencies involved in supporting Māori development are also much more interested in statistics for Māori as this information provides an insight into the effectiveness of their programmes and initiatives.

As Māori move along their development paths, they will develop and provide some of the data to underpin their own decision-making processes. However, it is also crucial, and expected, that priority information relevant to Māori development is collected and disseminated by the Crown (Statistics NZ, in press; Gleisner, Downey, & McNally, in press).

Māori groups that have been through the Treaty settlement process are now more interested or involved in investment and development initiatives, and as a result information for Māori is becoming more important for these groups as they chart their development paths.

We, along with many other government agencies, note that both these sets of information are important, particularly as the Crown and Māori increasingly engage and collaborate for mutual benefit in a post-Treaty settlement environment (Statistics NZ, 2014).

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