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Politics | Census

Why counting Māori became so important to iwi

Today is the first time an entity outside government has released Census data.

But that only happened because iwi became concerned about the 2013 and 2018 censuses being a record low for Māori engagement, with only 68 per cent of Māori filling out forms.

Census data is important as it informs decision making and spending by government in communities. So, for example, because of the low Māori count in 2018, a South Auckland health services missed out on major funding.

Stats NZ and Te Kāhui Raraunga (TKR) came to an agreement and today’s launch of Te Whata, a platform to view Census data, is a direct result.

Te Kāhui Rarauranga was established in 2019 to do the mahi for the Data Iwi Leaders Group, which was established in 2016 in response to the increasing need for iwi to better harness the potential of data, to provide more accessibility and control to empower iwi development.

The Data ILG consists of six governance representatives from Te Arawa, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Te Ranga Tupua, Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Korokii-Kahukura and Ngāpuhi. Four of these representatives are trustees on the TKR Board.

Relevant data

Te Whata was designed in 2020 so iwi could have data relevant to them.

Te Kāhui Raraunga chairman Rahui Papa said Te Whata was a platform where Census data could be designed by iwi for iwi “to calculate their data, to be able to have the discussions they need to have both in the government world but in the philanthropic world as well”.

The Census data was released this morning by Te Kāhui Raraunga (TKR) led by pou ārahi Kirikowhai Mikaere who is also the lead technical advisor to the Data Iwi Leaders group.

Papa said the issues in previous censuses were the lack of compiling, the lack of collections. “Vast communities not reflected left huge gaps and holes in 2013 and 2018 and we decided then that we would put our hands up.”

Papa said they contemplated taking court action, bringing the case before the Waitangi Tribunal but they decided to sit at the table with the ministers and statisticians of the time to work out a mana ōrite arrangement. The benefits of this arrangement were seen in the 2023 Census, he said.

Asked how much Māori missed out on in the budget because of the issues of 2013 and 2018, Papa said the fiscal elements would have to be calculated “but it would be significant”.

By iwi for iwi

“There would be budgetary considerations that weren’t taken into account because census data determines the planning into the next stage and actually the planning for and by iwi themselves ultimately hinges on a lot of the census data as well.

“Te Whata is a platform that was designed by iwi for iwi, to calculate their data, to be able to have the discussions they need to have both in the government world but in the philanthropic world as well,” Papa said.

Te Whata also includes Census date for national New Zealand population so is accessible to all.

This is the first number of data releases, there are more to come on education, health, housing, etc.

You can look at the data releases on the website or the Te Whata app.