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Summary and conclusion


Four variables are identified as essential census information requirements specific to Māori: Māori descent, Māori ethnicity, iwi, te reo Māori (the Māori language).

Māori ethnic group and Māori descent are the primary identifiers of belonging as Māori, and therefore essential for census to produce any Māori information at all. Both are legal requirements – under the Statistics Act 1975 (ethnicity) and Electoral Act 1993 (Māori descent).

Iwi is also a core identifier for Māori and fundamental to Treaty settlements, both to support the settlement process, and to monitor post-settlement outcomes.

Te reo Māori is clearly of paramount importance to Māori, and the Crown’s commitment as a Treaty partner is reflected in the Māori Language Act 1987. Information is necessary to monitor the health of te reo and is used by both government and Māori bodies, such as iwi and the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori. The census is the only source that permits analysis of spoken language for the entire population that allows detailed breakdowns (eg te reo speakers by iwi and age groups). It provides a baseline for all other collections.

Age, sex, and location are also essential for describing the structure of any population, and therefore for understanding Māori and iwi populations. It is an explicit legal requirement for the census to collect these variables under the Statistics Act 1975.

The population identifiers and basic demographics provided by the census serve as the population reference point for other data sources. The census also provides a sampling frame for surveys such as Te Kupenga that are targeted to Māori.

Both Māori and the Crown also have an established need for information across the broad topics of education, income, work, health, households and families, and housing. This reflects the need for Māori to have information on Māori development and well-being and the Māori economy, as well as government’s need to develop and monitor policies, and to evaluate their effectiveness in education, employment, health, and housing.

There are a number of census variables within these topics, and not all are equally important. Drawing on the He Arotahi Tatauranga framework and the uses we identified during consultation with targeted Māori organisations, iwi, and government agencies, we have evidence for which variables are particularly important. This is not to deny the possible high importance of other variables, but we have not yet found key uses to support this.

Table 1 (appendix) summarises these findings for the topics and variables collected by the 2013 Census. For each topic, the census variables are split into three groups:

  • legal obligations and other ‘must have’ Māori information needs
  • variables identified as being of particular importance to Māori and the Crown
  • variables not identified to date as having high importance.

For te reo and the other topics of high importance, census needs to continue to provide breakdowns for Māori populations: by ethnicity, descent, or iwi, and by geographic areas.

Further work

Further work is needed to explore quality aspects such as the level of geographic breakdowns, accuracy requirements, and how often information is needed, but these were not a focus of this paper.

The current census model provides the ‘must have’ information for and about Māori, acknowledging there may be some gaps and not all needs are met. However, a census model based on administrative data sources is challenged to provide this information. The census transformation programme is investigating the potential for administrative data to provide census information, including the essential variables identified here.


Statistics NZ recognises the unique relationship accorded Māori as tāngata whenua. Partnership between Māori and the Crown is a key principle in defining the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi. Statistics NZ’s role for the Crown is to provide information in the form of official statistics, which includes the census. The information for and about Māori that is included in the census should be of enduring need to both Treaty partners; agreement on this relies on a strong, agile partnership. Priority should be given to information where Māori and the Crown need to exercise decision-making together.

The most important outcome for this work has been to establish the enduring census information requirements for and about Māori, based on an understanding of partnership through the Treaty and legal obligations.

Our findings have implications for the 2018 Census and Statistics NZ more widely. For example, they connect to content development and collection methodologies for the 2018 Census. This investigation forms a base that could be developed as the organisation becomes more responsive to Māori information needs, well-being, and development. Related to this, are questions about how Statistics NZ will get a sense of ‘emerging’ census information requirements for and about Māori, and ensure the organisation is agile in considering these information needs.

We hope the discussion of the Treaty in relation to providing information for and about Māori will also be useful for other government agencies and organisations. They too will develop information resources to support ongoing Māori development and well-being.

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