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Leaders Integrity Forum: Working with integrity with Maori

TINZ Director, Karen Coutts

Karen Coutts

TINZ Director, Tiriti-O-Waitangi

Chair of Maori Caucus

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ)’s Leaders Integrity Forum held in September 2019, took the opportunity to coincide with Te wiki o te reo Māori. It focussed on what it would mean to work with Māori with integrity: Ka Kotahitanga Tikanga.

Meaningful partnerships goal

The title of the forum made it clear that for TINZ, achieving meaningful partnership is the goal for how Crown agents should work with Māori. The forum speakers helped the audience explore how well this concept is progressing within their own organisations and other relationships.

The two wahine toa spoke of their own experiences as senior public servants. Dr Charlotte Severne (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Tuhoe) is the Māori Trustee and Chief Executive of Te Tumu Paeroa. Dr Rawinia Higgins (Ngāi Tuhoe) is the Māori Language Commissioner and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) at Victoria University. TINZ Director, Karen Coutts, chaired the session. 

Relevancy of consultation

Charlotte gave context to her work and the breadth of touch she has with Māori land-owners to support their management of their land blocks. The Trustee works with over 90,000 hectares of Māori land. She indicated that engagement by government agencies could be last minute and after decisions had already been shaped. There was the possibility that some agencies were unsure of why they had to consult with the Māori Trustee, i.e. they had not identified the relevancy for this need.

Differing perspectives

For Rawinia, the picture was not much better. Through her role at the university, she faces assumptions that Māori support/advice is provided free of charge. This is unlike expectations for other expertise and academic support across the university. Furthermore, when academics are introduced to Māori perspectives relevant to their research, they often are unable to cope with Māori having different views from themselves.

Mutually beneficial outcomes

From the forum discussion it was clear that attendees, as with Charlotte and Rawinia, wanted to take up processes that have integrity and can help achieve purposeful mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties. Minimal and reasonable expectations for understanding Māori and their priorities, requires engagement at the beginning of the process, with personal approaches made before more formal inputs. Such expectations are a start on what is still a journey for Crown agencies as they move towards achieving meaningful partnerships with Māori. 

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) follows each Leaders Integrity Forum with a detailed and thoughtful blog post. Recent posts include Protecting our value in a volatile world and Ethical leadership – all the more important when the going gets tough. Visit the OAG blog for recent updates – including one on this event to be added shortly – and past Leadership Integrity Forum posts. 

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