Kaupapa Māori Governance

Development of a Kaupapa Māori Governance Model from a Literature Review and Key Informant Interviews

Mera Penehira, Fiona Cram & Kataraina Pipi, Katoa Ltd

Commissioned by: Te Puāwai Tapu - Kaupapa Māori Sexuality Services

Timeframe: 2003

The authors worked alongside Te Puāwai Tapu to inform and collaboratively develop a Kaupapa Māori Governance model. The generous input of the six key informants was pivotal to this project, as was the time spent with the Te Puāwai Tapu Board. The report developed is downloadable below: Penehira, M., Cram, F. Pipi, K. (2003). Kaupapa Maori governance: Literature review & key informant interviews. Prepared by Katoa Ltd for Te Puawai Tapu, Wellington.


Kaupapa Māori sets the theoretical framework within which ideas and research about governance were explored. This review incorporated both indigenous and non-indigenous governance literature. This set the scene for interviews with six key informants with Māori who are knowledgeable about implementing Kaupapa Māori governance within Māori and Iwi (tribal) organisations. A Kaupapa Māori governance model for Te Puāwai Tapu was then developed.

Governance is written about and theorised within global, national, and local; societal and institutational contexts. There is a tendency to confuse governance with government and to use the two terms interchangeably when government is being discussed (Plumptre & Graham, 1999). However, government is an institution and governance is a process. There are many definitions of governance but fundamentally it is about influence, decision-making and accountability. Louise Frechette (1999), Deputy-Secretary-General of the United Nations, gives the following useful perspective: ‘Governance is the process through which… institutions, businesses and citizens’ groups articulate their interest, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their differences’.

The role of self-determination is essential to the development of good governance models for indigenous peoples. Self-determination provides indigenous peoples with the opportunity to contemplate the appropriate mix of traditional and contemporary elements. For example, Alfred Taiaiake (1999) argues that the election of Board members should be foregone in favour of traditional decision-making processes. In this contemplation, the Nunavat example demonstrates the importance of the voice of the people. As Reinharz (1988, p.15) argues, ‘…if you want to hear it, you have to go to hear it, in their space, in a safe space…’. Through consultation, governance models can be established to take people into the future, to help heal the past, and to reconnect governing processes with indigenous values, beliefs and aspirations.

Indeed, it might be speculated that the new horizons for ‘western’ models of good governance lie in Indigenous knowledge and practice. This is perhaps best summarised in the following statement from Bradley Young (2002), of the Student Council of the University of Alberta:

The motivation for Aboriginal ‘self-government is (equally) simple: self preservation … Aboriginal governance is the fulfillment of many prophecies which many elders from many different nations share. ...Aboriginal People, will increasingly vacate the old dysfunctional colonial institutions in sway now, replacing them with renewed indigenous governance systems which will revolutionize and save the tired, increasingly ignored, and decaying 'modern' western democratic models of government, as well as their own people(s) from oblivion.

The model of Kaupapa Māori governance proposed in this project is a combination of Kaupapa Māori principles and critical practice Issues identified in the literature review and from key informant interviews. A three-part model reflects the categories of governance essential to a Kaupapa Māori way of being.

Part One: Hinengaro

Hinengaro (mind, thought) acknowledges the concepts of maumahara (to remember), mātau (to know) and moemoea (to dream) in governance. That is our actions are guided by the past, we learn from those memories and experiences, and visions and aspirations for future development are grounded in our histories. These histories reflect individual and organisational sites of struggle for tino rangatiratanga, and the gifts and practices of those who have gone before us in that struggle. The reality of the context for Kaupapa Māori Governance is one that must combine knowledge, expertise and accountability of both Māori and Western paradigms. The wisdom of Kaumatua (elders) is essential in maintaining the integrity of a Kaupapa Māori approach.

Part Two: Ngākau

Ngākau (heart) acknowledges the concepts of māramatanga (understanding), puku (stomach) and manawa (heart) in governance. That is, our actions are guided by our understanding of the world and context in which we govern; there must be substance to the policies we project in governing the organisation; and above all sound governance is reliant on a commitment from the ‘heart’ of the individual. An understanding of whānau (Māori families), hapū (sub-tribe) and Iwi (tribe) and the mediation of environmental influences within these contexts further aids a sound governance model. Critical practice issues apparent in part two of the model reflect individual commitment and accountability in the context of relationships and issues of power contained within those relationships.

Part Three: Tinana

Tinana (body) is focussed on the actioning of sound governance. It is about ‘walking the talk’. That is there are three distinct aspects critical to ensuring practices support and uphold a sound model. They are: to practice and action policy; to have effective measures of sound governance in place; to have evidence of sound governance easily visible at all levels of the organisation. Walking the talk must be based on a strong and clear kaupapa (agenda) and the ability to transfer and evolve knowledge of that kaupapa within the organisation and its community.

Table 1. A Model of Kaupapa Māori Governance

Kaupapa Māori Principle
He Atua – He Tangata
Critical Practice Issues

Tino Rangatiratanga

Nga Taonga Tuku Iho




Māori and Western Paradigms

Wisdom of Kaumatua


Kia Piki Ake i Nga Raruraru i Te Kainga





Passion, Commitment and Validity

 Power, Relationships and Accountability




Whakawai (practice)

 Mai i … ki te … (measure)

Ngā huanga (evidence)

Clear Kaupapa

Distinction between Governance and Management

Table 1 represents these three parts (middle column) alongside the companion Kaupapa Māori principles (left-hand column) and the critcial practice issues (right hand colum). To demonstrate how this model turns into a day-to-day working model a series of reflective questions were then developed.

Reflective Questions

The reflective questions have been incorporated to support implementation of the model. It is intended that they guide ‘governors’ in meeting the challenges of directing an organisation through the practices that enable achievement, sustainability and evolution of their values and mission. Reflective questions may be used as a method of peer review, to resolve potential positions of conflict and to mediate between the work of management, operations and governance. The questions are grouped according to the Kaupapa Māori Framework illustrated above. It should be noted that this is not a finite list – it is intended as a starting point for reflective and proactive members of governance.


  1. In what ways do I demonstrate and extend my knowledge of Māori and Western paradigms in the context of the principles of our organisation?
  2. What do I need to do to ensure I fit the Western requirements of governance of this organisation, within our Kaupapa Māori principles of governance?
  3. How do we ensure the voice of Kaumatua is spoken, listened to and heard in all aspects of our governance?


  1. Does the membership of our governance board reflect individuals who have: clarity of purpose; leadership qualities; passion; commitment; focus? In what ways are these qualities demonstrated?
  2. In what ways do our governance practices recognise and respond to the challenges of power, accountability and relationships that contribute to the wider context of the organisation?
  3. Do I have a clear analysis of the external relationships between government, crown entities and our organisation?


  1. Are the values and philosophies of the organisation clear enough to be linked directly to methods of operation at all levels?
  2. Are the members of the governing board able to clearly articulate the values and philosophies of the organisation and make links to practice?
  3. Does my role in governance intersect with or overlap with management or operations of the organisation? What is the impact of this?

Concluding Remarks

This report began with an examination of Kaupapa Māori with the strong ‘take home message’ that Kaupapa Māori is about our right to be Māori. Kaupapa Māori governance is therefore about our right to implement culturally appropriate models of governance to guide our institutions and organisations. However, the literature review highlighted the tensions between talking about Kaupapa Māori governance within a context in which we do not have sovereignty. Our attempts to establish Kaupapa Māori governance might therefore be a best approximation we can gain in a legislative and policy environment that is essentially non-Māori. Even so, the reviewed literature, the input of the key informants and the development a Kaupapa Māori Governance model all point to ways in which Kaupapa Māori Governance equals good and sound governance.


Frechette, L. (1999). Speech to the World Conference on Governance, Manila, May 31, 1999.

Plumptre, T. & Graham, J. (1999). Governance and good governance: International and Aboriginal perspectives. Ottawa, Canada: Institute on Governance.

Reinharz, S. (1988). The concept of voice. Paper presented at Human Diversity: perspectives on people contex. University of Maryland.

Taiaiake, A. (1999). Peace power righteousness: an indigenous manifesto. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Fiona Cram,
30 Jun 2012, 00:04