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The Whānau Ora approach demonstrates Māori capability and potential can be activated by strength-based approaches. The need is critical for more long-term support for whānau-centred,[33] strengths-based initiatives from within the whānau rather than crisis-driven, short-term interventions from the outside (Baker, 2010). Hapū, iwi and the state need a joined-up, evidence-based strategy informed by the reality of the lives of whānau. Whānau Ora was an innovative intersectoral policy intended to empower whānau and move resources closer to them and away from formal institutions. This can be further developed and extended. Ample opportunity exists for a more cohesive approach by the state and iwi to whakamana tāngata for the most impoverished Māori and to encourage a whakamana tāngata approach based on potential.

"The current system fails Māori both through inadequate levels of assistance and an individualised approach to accessing support that is more likely to exclude Māori.”


Addressing immediate needs, including financial issues, on-job training, innovative education and active labour market interventions are all possible contributions to this approach. We are not advocating a ‘work for the dole’ scheme. The aim is for decent, well-paid jobs, education and training opportunities to continue to build the skills of employees. The relatively low number of Māori employed in high-skilled jobs could be addressed through policies that provide a practical commitment to achieving equitable outcomes. These policies could be supported by an appropriately skilled employment service that can recognise the intra-variability of Māori. This employment service would provide a variety of opportunities: from enhancing access to high-level academic and modern technologies qualifications to supporting iwi, hapū, marae and Māori communities to offer innovative whānau-based employment schemes and systems to support intergenerational change.

The Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty (2012b: para 67) stated that “significance of the demographic importance of Māori needs to be underscored”. Māori and the nation would benefit from improvements in Māori school and post-school education outcomes. In terms of post-school education and training, the group recommended “a specific work creation strategy for Māori youth” (para 67). Demographic dividends are there to be had. Attention needs to be paid to supporting young Māori as they transition from school to further education, training or work. “Ensuring that there is good training in place (and jobs to go into) is important” (para 67).

Mainstream government work programmes must be responsive to Māori as per Article 3 of Te Tiriti. Several researchers have argued that the success of policies and programmes must be sourced in or informed by Te Ao Māori – the Māori world (Belgrave, 2012; New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2015; Superu, 2017; Welfare Justice, 2010). This is not a new suggestion. The 1988 Royal Commission on Social Policy called out the principle of recognising the different perspectives of different cultures (at p 735):

The income maintenance and taxation systems should recognise the different perspectives of those from different cultures, not only in relation to the administrative processes involved in assessing eligibility for income maintenance and in the delivery of entitlement, but also in relation to the principles on which those systems are based.

A Māori perspective is required not only in the regional service centres of MSD, where people in need are seeking help, but also in the back offices, national office and governance positions guiding the development of the policy and operations of the welfare system. This is not in terms of creating special programmes for Māori, although this may be required, but recognises the need for mainstream, day-to-day service delivery of the welfare system to address the needs of Māori. Universal services need to work for all but this does not mean one size fits all.

This approach means engaging with Māori in meaningful partnerships in design, delivery and evaluation of social services to Māori, including mainstream services. It means the funding of services to Māori needs to be sufficient to achieve outcomes for, and with, Māori.

Such a response requires Māori participation at all levels – governance and front line. In the context of Te Tiriti, it is important that hapū, iwi and Māori have a significant role in providing governance to and in the monitoring of the social security system. We recommend a variety of changes, to ensure Māori have a significant influence on the system at this level. By putting these systems in place, a long-term strategic approach to gaining equity for Māori in the implementation of the social security system can be enacted.

Devolution of service delivery to Māori must be part of the mix. It gives an expression of Te Tiriti and is something that came through clearly in our consultation hui with Māori. There are past and current examples of the devolution of responsibility for service delivery to Māori[34]. There are questions about how the state should best devolve responsibility to Māori and how that responsibility would develop in the face of or in conjunction with the existing benefit system (New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2015; Stephens, 2015).

"There is a need to embed the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi much more deeply – less about a safety net, more about self-determination and wellbeing frameworks for Māori.”



33 “‘Whānau’ is not interchangeable with the term ‘family’” (Baker, 2010: 101). Operationalising the concept of whānau is a challenge for government.
34 Current examples are Te Hiku O Te Ika – Crown Social Development and Wellbeing Accord (see Te Hiku Development Trust, 2014: 17) and Ngāi Tūhoe Service Management Plan (Social Service Taskforce, 2012).

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