Any credible engagement with Māori will be based on relationships of trust and reciprocity.
This is a short, practical guide to assist officials in their engagements with Māori. It is not intended to be exhaustive, and it is not a substitute for good advice from experienced people and thorough preparation through wider research.
Why engage with Māori
Many government decisions will affect Māori, sometimes in unpredicted or unintended ways, so Māori participation is important.
People should have the opportunity to participate in government decisions that affect them. Early engagement can help identify pitfalls or gaps in our thinking and raise otherwise unforeseen issues or opportunities.
The Treaty of Waitangi places an additional responsibility on government to facilitate Māori participation in policy development and service delivery.
Māori, as tangata whenua, have a unique relationship with government. The Treaty obliges government to ensure that Māori are involved in making decisions on matters that affect them. It also means that government must take positive steps to ensure that Māori interests are protected. Any compromises necessary to achieve a balance with other government obligations should be explored in good faith by the parties together.
Who to engage with
The question of who to engage can sometimes be difficult for officials. The best place to start is by working through your existing relationships with Māori. Your contacts may help you find the right people.
If you don't already have these relationships, work with people who do. Start by checking what help is available within your own agency. For extra assistance, you can also ask Te Puni Kōkiri.
Take the opportunity to start building active relationships with Māori individuals and organisations before specific issues arise.
The following questions might help you identify key stakeholders:
- Who might be affected by your issue now or in the future?
- Does your issue have implications for a particular sector(s) of activity? If so, what organisations, service providers and advocates are interested or involved in this sector?
- Does your issue have implications for a specific geographical area? If so, who are the iwi or Māori groups in this area?
- Will your issue be significant for pan-Māori organisations such as the Māori Women's Welfare League or the Federation of Māori Authorities?
When to engage
Early discussions with Māori build better understanding and make subsequent debate better informed.
Māori participation should not be an afterthought. Ideally it will be just one aspect of your ongoing relationships with Māori. As a rule of thumb, seek Māori involvement as early as possible, particularly if the issue has been identified as significant to Māori.
It might be helpful to think about the key decision points in your policy or service-development process. Ask how Māori input could help with:
- defining the problem or issue
- setting objectives
- developing options or solutions
- choosing an option or solution
- implementing the agreed option or solution
- evaluating the effectiveness of this option or solution.
Be prepared to be flexible and try to accommodate requests to vary your process.
Things to keep in mind
Crown-Māori Relationships Instruments
Formal relationship agreements, such as memoranda of understanding, with whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations, are now referred to as Crown-Māori Relationship Instruments (CMRI).
Ministry of Justice and Te Puni Kōkiri, with assistance from Crown Law, carried out a stocktake of 150 existing instruments and consulted a selection of Crown and Māori organisations, who were party to those instruments. The stocktake established the need for a policy framework, which was approved by Cabinet in August 2004.
The CMRI policy framework is designed to:
- increase consistency between CMRI
- increase awareness of the agreements executed across the state sector
- contribute to the living relationship envisaged by both parties to the Treaty of Waitangi
- assist the development of robust relationships between the Crown and Māori.
The Crown-Māori Relationship Instruments: Guidelines and Advice for Government and State Sector Agencies were published in November 2006 to help agencies to develop CMRI.
Cabinet has directed agencies to seek advice from the CMRI Officials’ Group regarding compliance with the policy framework. The Officials’ Group is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Te Puni Kōkiri.
CMRI can be executed when the Officials’ Group informs the agency that their proposed CMRI is consistent with the policy framework. Cabinet approval is required for CMRI that are inconsistent with the policy framework.
It is not mandatory for Crown entities to comply with the CMRI policy framework, but they are invited to apply the Guidelines when developing relationship instruments.