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Review of the statistical standard for iwi – frequently asked questions

What is the review?

Statistics NZ is reviewing the guidelines used to collect and categorise information about iwi and Māori identity groupings. These guidelines are known as the statistical standard for iwi (which includes the classification for iwi). The review aims to find the most appropriate way to measure iwi and Māori identity groupings to meet current and future user needs.

Why is the statistical standard for iwi being reviewed?

The statistical standard has not been reviewed since its creation in 1994. The iwi inclusion criteria recognises a significant number of iwi, but excludes some other groups. The current standard may not sufficiently meet future user needs for relevant Māori grouping information.

Users, including Māori communities, generally accept that the current iwi statistical standard needs to be reviewed/re-evaluated.

Statistics NZ is conducting a full review into how best to identify Māori groupings. We will capture this in a revised statistical standard(s).

Can I get involved in the review process? Have my say?

Yes – we want to hear your views. We’re holding a series of hui across New Zealand. And public submissions are invited during the submission period of 18 April to 12 June 2016.

Find more information on the review, and instructions on how to make a submission.

How does Statistics NZ measure different aspects of iwi and Māori identity?

Iwi and Māori identity involves ethnicity, genealogy, geographic ties, religious and spiritual beliefs, and cultural activities, as well as affiliation with groups such as iwi and hapū.

Statistical surveys such as the census ask Māori to identify themselves as ethnically Māori and/or through Māori descent. Ethnicity and descent are different concepts. Ethnicity refers to cultural affiliation, while descent is about ancestry (whakapapa).

This review is about the statistical standard for iwi and the classification for iwi and will consider whether asking iwi alone is the most appropriate way to measure Māori group identity for the future. Māori identity involves more than belonging to an iwi. When asked to report their iwi, some respond with their hapū, their marae, or their maunga. Collecting information on different types of Māori identity groups could yield more relevant information for use by Māori and government.

What are the implications for the iwi classification?

The review will result in the iwi classification becoming more inclusive. Some new classifications may emerge or be incorporated to help capture the essence of Māori identity/groupings.

How are iwi classified? How is the significance of an iwi determined?

Currently, in deciding whether or not a tribal group will be classified as an iwi, the following criteria are considered:

  • Whether the group has been separately categorised in earlier iwi or tribal classifications
  • Whether the group has been identified by respondents in previous surveys or censuses
  • Whether there is a history of the group operating as a separate iwi in a business or resource management capacity, with legal and/or administrative recognition as such
  • Whether historical and genealogical tradition identify the group as distinctive
  • Whether the group (as hapū of a larger iwi) is moving to acquire or petition for iwi status

[Note: This process includes consultation with the iwi that the applicant group is currently a part of.]

It’s generally accepted (by users, respondents, Māori communities, and government agencies alike) that these criteria are limiting, and need to be reviewed/re-evaluated.

Surely all iwi are currently listed?

Due to the current inclusion criteria, some groups may not be recognised. This means we cannot say that all iwi/groups are listed in the current iwi classification.

What is the current definition of iwi?

There are a number of definitions of iwi in use. The current standard defines iwi as follows:

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).

(Source: Statistical standard for iwi, Statistics NZ)

Examples of other definitions are:

  • Extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality, race - often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor. (Source: Māori dictionary online)
  • In the context of Te Kāhui Māngai, an Iwi is a Māori tribe descended from a common named ancestor or ancestors, and is usually comprised of a number of hapū. (Source: Te Kāhui Māngai)

Why is iwi information collected?

Statistics on the size of iwi and demographic characteristics of individuals who affiliate with iwi are needed to:

  • allow the Crown and iwi to monitor the performance of Treaty of Waitangi obligations
  • assist in allocating resources and funds to iwi
  • assist iwi in planning social and economic developments
  • assist Waitangi Tribunal decisions on land ownership, fishing rights, etc
  • assist central, regional, and local government agencies in planning and providing services to iwi in areas such as housing, health, social welfare, and special assistance programmes
  • assist local government to administer the Resource Management Act 1991.

Who uses this information?

Policymakers and government agencies use iwi (and other variables) as indicators of Māori identity to inform debate and aid policymaking. Iwi groups use this information and also collect and use information on their population of interest. Researchers use Māori identity variables to identify and measure progress in Māori development and well-being.

Is there an official register of iwi?

There is no official register of iwi, however, some legislation and judicial processes define iwi for particular purposes. These include the Māori Fisheries Act 2004, mandated bodies recognised for Treaty of Waitangi settlement purposes, and iwi authorities under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Te Puni Kōkiri records these government-recognised groups in a database called Te Kāhui Māngai: Directory of Iwi and Māori Organisations. Please note: this directory carries a disclaimer that inclusion does not imply endorsement or recognition of that information by the Crown.

The statistical standard and classification for iwi was developed and is used for statistical purposes. The iwi classification is not meant to be read as a definitive list or register of iwi, nor intended to be used by other organisations for other purposes.

Why is Statistics NZ and not a Māori agency doing this review?

Statistics NZ leads the Official Statistics System. Part of our role is to develop and produce statistical standards on a wide range of topics and promote their use across central government agencies.

We are co-ordinating this review because the end result will be represented as an official statistical standard for all to use. An across-government working group with Māori representatives is advising and we will be seeking feedback from Māori agencies, iwi, other Māori identity groups, government agencies, and the general public.

What are you hoping to achieve? What will be the end result?

The review aims to better meet the current and future needs of those who use iwi statistics by re-considering the concepts, definitions, criteria, and procedures we use to collect information about iwi and Māori groups.

We will seek feedback through consultation with stakeholders and the general public, a public submission process, and several hui across New Zealand. All responses received during this review process will help us to make recommendations for 2018 Census and to draft a statistical standard.

What is a statistical standard?

A statistical standard provides guidelines for collecting information on a particular topic. This includes defining concepts and terms used, a classification, and how information should be collected and produced. A statistical standard clearly defines the population of interest.

View the current statistical standard for iwi.

What is a statistical classification?

A statistical classification (included within a statistical standard) is a way to group a set of related categories in a meaningful, systematic, and standard format. The statistical classification is usually exhaustive, has mutually exclusive and well-described categories, and has either a hierarchical or a flat structure.

A primary purpose of a statistical classification is to provide a simplification of the real world and a useful framework for collecting and analysing data from both statistical and administrative collections. Iwi is a hierarchical classification with two levels. Level 1 represents iwi region (rohe) and used for summary purposes. Level 2 shows individual iwi.

View the current classification for iwi.


Page published 2 June 2016

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