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The Treaty of Waitangi (Treaty) provides the framework that defines the relationship between the Crown and Māori as tangata whenua (Constitutional Advisory Panel, 2012). As a Treaty partner and leader of the Official Statistics System (OSS), Statistics NZ is responsible for reflecting the principles of the Treaty and for being responsive to Māori information needs. Statistics NZ has to consider the implications of Māori information, by reflecting the post-Treaty settlement environment, and ensuring information is useful and accessible to both the Crown and Māori.

Over recent years, Māori and government agencies have expressed dissatisfaction with the existing statistical standard and classification for iwi. The standard has been criticised for losing relevance and for not reflecting the needs of contemporary New Zealand society. Since the standard was developed, the way government is engaging with Māori has evolved (Statistics NZ, 2015). Government is engaging with a more diverse range of Māori groups (including merging and emerging iwi, hapū, marae, and non-kinship groups) across a range of social, economic, and political issues (Statistics NZ, 2015).

Māori groups take an active role in the development and well-being of their people. These groups want statistics to support the planning and provision of services, and to enable the self-determination of their development as Māori. For example, Māori statistical information is used by Māori to build capability and strengthen social, cultural, and economic development.

Statistical standards and classifications enable the provision of consistent, accurate, and reliable statistics. We are reviewing the statistical standard for iwi for the first time since its inception (Statistics NZ, 2016a). Underpinning this review is the need to understand whether the statistical standard is useful for deriving information to meet existing data needs, and whether the classification allows groups to be organised in a way that is meaningful and useful.

About the current standard and classification for iwi

Statistical standards and classifications guide the collection of official statistics to inform decision-making and policymaking (Statistics NZ, nd.a). Standards provide guidelines for collecting information using consistent procedures, and classifications enable the grouping of information in a way that is consistent, meaningful, and systematic. Using statistical standards and classifications to produce statistics allows the integration of data over time and across different sources.

The statistical classification for iwi (Statistics NZ, nd.b) was first developed in 1991, as an outcome of the 1988 review of official ethnic statistics (Department of Statistics, 1988). At that time, the Crown – but not necessarily Māori – considered iwi as the most appropriate means for grouping statistical data, as this reflected how they were engaging with Māori in Treaty and Fisheries settlements. The Crown also saw iwi as a key focal point for Māori development.

The current statistical classification for iwi allows the coding of iwi responses by rohe. The classification comprises two levels:

  • Level 1
    • Rohe (total: 11)
  • Level 2 
    • Iwi (total: 100)
  • Rohe not further defined (total: 11).

While the current classification allows for the collection of hapū, this information is not output as a distinct and separate category. Rather, hapū are coded to the iwi grouping they are part of.

Depending on the response given, responses can also be coded to residual categories, namely: 

  • waka (total: 12)
  • iwi confederations (total: 5) 
  • hapū affiliated to more than one iwi (total: 1) 
  • admin (total: 5) – don’t know, refused to answer, unidentifiable, out of scope, not stated.

Since 2000, updates to the classification have occurred prior to each Census of Population and Dwellings (census), to standardise the spelling of iwi names and to add additional iwi categories (see Appendix 1).

Following the creation of the iwi classification, the statistical standard was developed in 1994 to provide guidelines for collecting and reporting iwi information, and to support the implementation of the classification. However, no reviews of the standard have occurred since its development.


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