Part 3: Purpose and design

Four initiatives supporting improved outcomes for Māori.

In this Part, we discuss:

We wanted to understand how well public organisations planned for and set up the four initiatives. We expected that there would be a clear rationale for each initiative and effective engagement with Māori about the need for each initiative and the planned approach. We expected the roles and responsibilities for leading and implementing each initiative to be clear and understood, and the approaches taken by public organisations to implement the initiatives to be realistic and appropriate.

We also expected that public organisations would have planned the arrangements needed to monitor and report on each initiative. We report on this in Part 5.

Summary of findings

Public organisations planned and set up the initiatives effectively. Business cases and other documentation had evidence and explanations about why each initiative was needed and why the approach taken would work well for Māori. All four initiatives are based on the idea that Māori know what works best for Māori and allowed providers flexibility in how they implemented the initiatives to best suit local communities and their needs.

Overall, we heard positive feedback from Māori about what each of the four initiatives is trying to achieve and the way public organisations engaged with them to design and deliver the initiatives. A strong sense of mutual trust was a common feature of the relationships between the public organisations and the iwi and providers we spoke to. Relationships can take time to build. In our view, the benefits of effective and trusting relationships can significantly outweigh the cost of investing time and resources in building them.

Roles and responsibilities were generally clear and well understood. Having clear roles and responsibilities helps each public organisation deliver the initiative more effectively and efficiently. For three of the initiatives, this included staff in regional offices.

Public organisations used pilot programmes for three of the initiatives to test the approach before expanding. Despite this, public organisations experienced delays and other problems when they expanded the initiatives beyond their pilot programmes. Although pilot programmes can be a useful way to test an approach on a smaller scale, public organisations still need to ensure that they have adequately planned for subsequent expansion before initiatives are rolled out more widely.

The initiatives were introduced to meet a clearly defined need

All four initiatives had a strong rationale. Staff from each public organisation, iwi, providers, and landowners understood and supported the rationale. The rationale for each initiative was set out in business cases and other documentation that included evidence and explanations about why each initiative was needed, the outcomes being sought, and why the approach taken would work well for Māori.

He Poutama Rangatahi

In a December 2017 Cabinet paper that recommended implementing He Poutama Rangatahi, the Minister for Employment noted that the Government saw addressing youth unemployment as a priority, particularly for Māori and Pasifika youth. The Minister further noted the connection of He Poutama Rangatahi to the Government's goals of lifting regional development and connecting young people to jobs.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment made a clear case for setting up He Poutama Rangatahi in the initial four regions because these regions had:

  • particularly high numbers of Māori rangatahi not in education, employment, or training. Research at the time found that, at a national level, 12.2% of young people aged 15-24 were not in education, employment, or training but this rose to 19.7% for Māori;5 and
  • potential labour shortages due to economic growth.

Providers we spoke to and staff from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Social Development had a good understanding of why He Poutama Rangatahi was put in place and what it is trying to achieve. Providers and staff agreed that there was a clear need for an initiative like He Poutama Rangatahi based on their experiences of working with local communities and rangatahi in particular.

The Māori Agribusiness Extension Programme

The Māori Agribusiness Extension Programme (MABx) was introduced as part of the Government's Productive and Sustainable Land Use package, which aimed to help landowners, businesses, and Māori decide the best way to improve both productivity on their land and the health of the environment.

The Ministry for Primary Industries made the case that improving the productivity of Māori land would bring economic benefits and help deliver Government priorities of:

  • a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy;
  • improved well-being of New Zealanders; and
  • unlocking the economic potential of New Zealand's regions.

Research commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 20116 estimated that 80% of Māori freehold land was unutilised, under-utilised, or under-performing.

Many owners of Māori land do not live on that land, and many own shares in Māori land but are not closely involved with it. Often Māori landowners do not have the funds, the time, or the knowledge to consider possibilities for how they could use their land.

Through MABx, the Ministry for Primary Industries provides opportunities specifically for Māori Agribusinesses. Unlike other initiatives, the Ministry uses MABx to provide funding both for advice and feasibility studies and support for landowners to interpret and implement that advice.

MABx also involves groups of Māori landowners working together, referred to as clusters (see paragraph 2.13). Clusters can consider opportunities for their combined Māori land, which provides more options than working individually because there is more land to work with. Landowners also benefit from shared learning by working together.

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori aims to provide the education workforce with the skills and confidence to integrate te reo Māori into the learning of all ākonga. One of the outcome domains for Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia | The Māori Education Strategy7 is supported by evidence that ākonga Māori do much better when their education reflects and values their identity, language, and culture.

Providers we spoke to agreed that it is important for tamariki to see te reo Māori being used in their schools and that this can raise the mana of the language. Providers also supported the approach for Te Ahu o te Reo Māori because schools can have a big impact for tamariki.

Whānau Engagement

Whānau Engagement was developed quickly as part of the Government's response to Covid-19 to meet a need, identified during the first lockdown,8 to support whānau to reconnect with education services. We were told that Covid-19 meant more whānau became disconnected from education due to:

  • whānau concerns about tamariki contracting Covid-19 at school;
  • whānau not having access to the technology required to engage remotely with schools;
  • financial hardship; and
  • re-location, including some whānau moving back to their ancestral whenua.

In most cases, disconnection meant that tamariki were not attending school nor accessing education in other ways, such as by remote learning during lockdown. Iwi and providers we spoke to agreed there was a need for the type of support offered by Whānau Engagement and told us they had seen many examples where whānau were disconnected from education services.

Māori influenced the purpose, design, and implementation of the initiatives

All four initiatives are based on the principle that Māori know what works best for Māori. Public organisations put this into practice by engaging with Māori so that their views and ideas could influence the purpose and design of each initiative. Iwi, providers, and landowners also had flexibility in how they delivered the initiatives to get the best results for their communities.

A local approach is key to He Poutama Rangatahi

The principle that communities know what is needed and what works for them is a key feature of He Poutama Rangatahi. A local approach can consider the needs of local people. Providers told us they like a flexible approach that allows them to design their own programme to meet local needs.

Most He Poutama Rangatahi providers are Māori, some are iwi providers, and one provider we spoke with has partnered with a local marae to deliver programmes. Advisors from the Ministry of Social Development work with providers to make sure that what they are proposing meets the criteria for He Poutama Rangatahi, such as including the right age group and offering the right types of skills and support. However, He Poutama Rangatahi has been set up to enable each provider to design their own approach to address the challenges that rangatahi face in their community. Advisors from the Ministry of Social Development also support them to complete a proposal for funding from He Poutama Rangatahi for their specific programme.

Reconnecting rangatahi with their cultural identity is a focus of He Poutama Rangatahi. Providers told us that many rangatahi Māori can feel disconnected from their marae and their iwi. Rangatahi are supported to connect with, and become confident in, their cultural identity through activities such as learning about their whakapapa, delivering their pepeha (personal introduction), and using karakia (prayer or blessing). Providers often support the wider whānau as well by including whānau members in some activities. Whānau members might themselves be dealing with issues like addiction or a lack of confidence or knowledge about how to access support for their rangatahi.

The Māori Agribusiness Extension Programme supports Māori landowners to set their own goals

Through MABx, the Ministry for Primary Industries supports Māori landowners to determine what successful use of their land means to them and then support them through a process that will help those landowners to achieve that success. Each cluster of landowners drives the process, including deciding to participate and determining what they want to achieve and the approach they want to take.

The Ministry for Primary Industries designed MABx to work with the complexities of Māori land ownership and to create a working environment where Māori felt comfortable to engage. Ministry staff and others we spoke to told us that, based on their experiences, Māori landowners prefer to work in a kaupapa Māori environment and will be more engaged when they do. One of the ways that this happens with MABx is that extra time is set aside at the start for whakawhanaungatanga– where everyone involved in a cluster gets to know each other.

The Project Initiation Document for MABx notes that other agribusiness initiatives that were not designed specifically for Māori had a lower uptake and retention from Māori landowners.

MABx typically involves clusters starting with a series of facilitated wānanga where landowners build relationships with each other and with Ministry for Primary Industries staff. They then collectively set goals and develop a work programme.

This approach enables Māori to define their own measures of success. This differentiates MABx from most other land use initiatives, which typically use performance indicators based on productivity. Māori aspirations for their land can have different objectives. For example, some landowners that were part of a cluster exploring options to build a micro-abattoir wanted to provide a facility for local whānau to feed themselves and did not have a commercial goal.

Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori and Whānau Engagement value the expertise that resides in iwi

The Ministry of Education has acknowledged that the successful delivery of its overall Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund package for supporting Māori learners, including Te Ahu o te Reo Māori and Whānau Engagement, requires the education sector to work differently, including valuing the expertise that resides in iwi.

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is delivered by local experts who are given flexibility that allows them to design the programme for their local area. For example, one provider told us that they include walks around the local area so participants can learn both the names of local places and the meanings behind those names. A key feature of Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is learning local dialects and speech patterns, endorsed by local iwi.

Providers are expected to have engaged with local iwi and to have their support. Providers had to include evidence of this support in their proposal to the Ministry of Education, which gave it a 15% weighting when it evaluated the proposals from providers. Providers are expected to report to the Ministry on their ongoing relationship with iwi and any issues that arise.

The Ministry of Education recognises that iwi are best placed to locate and engage with whānau who are disconnected from education and to use the relationships iwi have with education providers to support those whānau to reconnect. Iwi representatives and others involved in Whānau Engagement told us they support the flexible approach because they know what is needed locally and where whānau are who need this support.

In practice, the Ministry of Education works with each of the iwi involved to draw up an individual funding agreement based on what they see as the purpose of the work they are planning to do to support whānau to reconnect with education providers.

In one example of a funding agreement, the iwi involved committed to use funding in two phases. In the first phase, the iwi would engage with whānau and education institutions to understand where the highest need was and identify potential community networks that could be used to support whānau. In the second phase, the iwi would work directly with whānau to help them identify and achieve their goals.

Relationships built on mutual trust are vital for good engagement

The approach public organisations took to engaging with Māori about each of the four initiatives recognised rangatiratanga (self-determination) and helped to build mutual trust that is critical to strong relationships. This approach had a positive effect, which was evident in the way that iwi, providers, and landowners spoke about the public organisations involved. We heard a lot of support for the approach those public organisations took to engage with Māori.

The public organisations involved in these initiatives have well-established relationships with some iwi and Māori. These relationships have typically been built over time with regular engagement and positive experiences of working together. People have got to know each other and there is a level of trust between them.

Even when there is a strong relationship, public organisations were aware that they still need to work to maintain the relationship and that they will sometimes get things wrong. For example, the Ministry of Education is shifting how it works with iwi to improve its relationships. To support this, the Ministry has been providing training to its staff on both the Treaty of Waitangi and on diversity.

Not all relationships we heard about between public organisations and iwi were positive. Historically, public organisations have had strained relationships with some iwi and Māori organisations. Others have had little engagement in the past. Repairing relationships and building trust between parties takes time, and this can affect programme timelines.

For example, it took time for the Ministry of Education to sign agreements with some iwi and Māori organisations for Whānau Engagement. Despite this, the Ministry of Education had committed nearly all the allocated funding by the end of financial year 2020/21.

It also took the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment longer than expected to expand He Poutama Rangatahi into urban areas because of the time needed to build relationships with providers in these new locations (we discuss this further in paragraph ). As a result, there was an underspend in 2020/21 and $23 million was transferred to the following financial year, when the Ministry of Social Development took over He Poutama Rangatahi.

We acknowledge the importance of timelines and the pressure that public organisations experience to deliver in a timely way. However, the experience of the public organisations involved in this audit shows how the benefits of effective and trusting relationships can significantly outweigh the cost of investing time and resources in building them.

In Part 4 we discuss the important role that staff with local knowledge and connections play in building relationships with Māori. We also discuss the pressures that Māori staff who have worked on these initiatives can experience.

Roles and responsibilities are clear and understood

Roles and responsibilities were generally clear and well understood, with a specific team or business unit responsible for each initiative. Although all staff have a role to play in building strong relationships with iwi and Māori, the public organisations involved in these initiatives also have roles with specific responsibilities for relationship-building. Each initiative had different arrangements, but for three of the initiatives staff in regional offices had a key role in developing new relationships and strengthening existing ones.

He Poutama Rangatahi

He Poutama Rangatahi is administered by a specific team in the Ministry of Social Development's Employment Team.9 The Employment Team is part of the Ministry's Service Delivery Group.

He Poutama Rangatahi team members help to find and sign up new providers and then manage the relationship with them, including managing contracts. Proposals from new providers are assessed against a range of criteria to ensure that the proposal is aligned to He Poutama Rangatahi's purpose, the funding sought is appropriate, the proposal is clear about what it will deliver, and that the organisation applying has the capacity and capability to manage a Government-funded programme.

Regional staff from the Ministry of Social Development have an active role in He Poutama Rangatahi. They promote the initiative through regular engagement with providers in their region and helping to ensure that He Poutama Rangatahi is aligned with other Ministry employment and training programmes. They also support the application process for new providers by collecting information about providers and the programmes they are running and sharing that information with the Ministry's He Poutama Rangatahi team. Regional staff also endorse applications from providers before they are approved.

The Māori Agribusiness Extension Programme

The Ministry for Primary Industries' Māori Agribusiness Directorate has responsibility for MABx. The directorate is part of the Ministry's Agriculture and Investment Services business unit.

There are clear roles and responsibilities within the Māori Agribusiness Directorate for different members of the directorate. One of the key roles is the Manager Māori Agribusiness Programmes, who is responsible for completing key programme documents and reporting, managing the budget and risk management. There is also a senior advisor for monitoring and evaluation who monitors and reports on the clusters' progress and ensures that evaluation information is collected.

The Māori Agribusiness Directorate also includes staff based in regional offices who have an important role in delivering MABx. Regional staff are expected to build relationships with Māori in their region, identify potential new clusters, and monitor and support clusters that are already in place.

Concepts for potential new clusters are initially assessed for viability by the relevant regional manager. After the concept has been developed into a proposal, a quality assurance panel (comprising members of the Māori Agribusiness Directorate) reviews the proposal to ensure that it meets the criteria. These criteria include the ownership and governance status of the land included in the proposed cluster and cluster members demonstrating a willingness to work collaboratively. Decisions to approve projects for funding are made by a separate panel of internal and external representatives.

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori

In 2021/22, the Ministry of Education redesigned its organisational structure and operating model to help give better practical effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi and improve its working relationships with Māori. The new organisational structure includes a business unit called Te Mahau, which provides services and support for education staff and leaders, ākonga, and whānau.

The Ministry of Education's Te Uepū Reo Māori is responsible for oversight of Te Ahu o te Reo Māori as well as designing the initiative, running the procurement process to select providers, providing support to the selected providers, and managing the contracts with providers. Te Uepū Reo Māori sits within Te Poutāhū | Curriculum Centre, which is part of Te Mahau.

Whānau Engagement

Te Pae Aronui | Operations and Integration is also part of Te Mahau and is responsible for the design and oversight of Whānau Engagement. This includes deciding how much of the funding is allocated to each region. Funding is allocated to regions based on the socioeconomic status of schools in each region, the number of ākonga Māori at those schools, and attendance rates.

Regional offices are responsible for implementing Whānau Engagement in their regions, including how to allocate funding to iwi. The regional offices are expected to build relationships with iwi and work alongside them to determine how each iwi will implement Whānau Engagement. The regional offices and iwi then sign a formal funding agreement. The regional offices manage these agreements to ensure that iwi are delivering what has been agreed.

To ensure that the regional offices are implementing Whānau Engagement consistently with its intentions and with each other, Te Pae Aronui | Operations and Integration provided guidance for regional offices. This guidance was about how to work with iwi through to finalising a Funding Agreement and who to involve at each step. The guidance is not detailed but includes the Ministry of Education's principles for partnering with iwi, and the types of data and other information about Māori learners in local schools, that need to be considered before agreeing with iwi where they should focus.

The initiatives faced challenges when they expanded

Three of the initiatives were first trialled with pilot programmes. This allowed the public organisations to test their approach on a smaller scale before expanding. The Ministry of Education did not have a pilot for Whānau Engagement.

Covid-19 lockdowns affected the expansion of He Poutama Rangatahi

He Poutama Rangatahi was initially piloted in 2018 in four regions (see paragraphs 2.7 and 3.10). It was later expanded to urban areas and it is now available across the country.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment commissioned two evaluations of the pilot programme for He Poutama Rangatahi in 2019. These evaluations found that He Poutama Rangatahi was reaching the rangatahi most at risk of long-term unemployment and having a positive impact. The second evaluation found that 69% of rangatahi who participated in He Poutama Rangatahi had moved into education, training, or employment.

The second evaluation found that providers liked the flexibility the programme provided to develop local solutions. Providers said that because He Poutama Rangatahi was adaptable to local and individual circumstances, it was much better at assisting rangatahi to stay on a path to sustained employment compared to other types of initiatives.

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment subsequently expanded He Poutama Rangatahi into more regions but found it took longer than expected to sign up new providers, particularly in Auckland. The main reason for this was that Auckland was subject to longer Covid-19 restrictions than other parts of the country. Ministry staff needed to spend time building new relationships with providers in Auckland but many were already busy supporting their communities.

Since taking over He Poutama Rangatahi, the Ministry of Social Development has made He Poutama Rangatahi available in more locations and for groups that have specific needs, such as single parents, people with disabilities, and rainbow communities.

Some applications to the Māori Agribusiness Extension Programme had to meet additional process steps

The Ministry for Primary Industries did not use a formal pilot programme for MABx, but the first few clusters were treated as a pilot so that staff could see how well processes worked before expanding to more clusters.

The Ministry for Primary Industries carried out an internal review of MABx after six months. By that stage, three clusters were set up and running and three more were in the process of being set up. This review covered both internal systems and processes for supporting MABx and key success factors such as relationship management and engagement and capability building.

The internal review made 17 recommendations. Some of the recommendations were related to internal processes, such as improving document management processes, but also included improvements to reporting, time frames, and sharing what they had learned – for example, allowing more time to identify and contract a suitable facilitator when a cluster is being established. The Ministry for Primary Industries told us that it has made changes to its processes since this review.

The Ministry for Primary Industries found that demand for MABx was much higher than expected. The initial funding for MABx was not enough for all the new clusters so the Ministry decided to use one of its other funds (the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund) for some clusters. This was possible because some MABx clusters also met the criteria for the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund. Unlike the MABx funding, this fund was not set up specifically for Māori Agribusinesses and clusters had to go through more steps to access funding. As a result, these clusters had to wait longer before they could start and the Ministry had to work hard to maintain trust over that time.

Procurement delays affected the expansion of Te Ahu o te Reo Māori

Te Ahu o te Reo Māori was piloted in four regions before being rolled out. The pilot was in regions where the Māori population was expected to increase by at least 20% between 2013 and 2023.10 Te Ahu o te Reo Māori is also now available to members of the education workforce anywhere in the country.

The Ministry of Education commissioned an evaluation of the pilot for Te Ahu o te Reo Māori. This focused mostly on the effectiveness of delivery by providers and what was achieved. This evaluation found that participants rated the course providers highly and had significantly increased their ability to use te reo Māori correctly and confidently in the classroom.

The Ministry of Education also experienced issues when it expanded Te Ahu o te Reo Māori into all regions. The Ministry took longer than planned to finalise agreements with the providers it had selected. Providers told us these delays caused problems for them. One provider told us the delays meant that they had less time to prepare to deliver the programme. Another told us they lost a key kaiako (teacher) who resigned due to the uncertainty of not having a signed contract.

Although the Ministry of Education ran an advertising campaign for Te Ahu o te Reo Māori, providers told us that a lack of publicity meant that initial numbers were lower than expected. One provider told us they did their own publicity but not all had the ability to do this. We also heard that some participants were initially unable to register for Te Ahu o te Reo Māori because they did not have access to the system the Ministry of Education was using for registrations. Te Ahu o te Reo Māori was also affected by Covid-19 lockdowns and, for a time, providers had to deliver training online.

Because of these delays and issues, the target number of participants was reduced from 10,000 to 7000 for the first year.

5: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2017), Māori in the Labour Market, page 38.

6: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (2011), Māori Agribusiness in New Zealand: A Study of the Māori Freehold Land Resource.

7: Ka Hikitia – Ka Hāpaitia | The Māori Education Strategy is a cross-agency strategy for the education sector. The agencies include the Ministry of Education, Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, Education New Zealand, the Education Review Office, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Teaching Council Aotearoa New Zealand, the Tertiary Education Commission, and the New Zealand School Trustees Association. It sets out how these agencies will work with education services to achieve system shifts in education and support Māori learners and their whānau, hapū, and iwi to achieve excellent and equitable outcomes and provides an organising framework for the actions that will be taken.

8: New Zealand entered Alert Level 4 at 11.59pm on 25 March 2020, which meant all households had to self-isolate. Schools did not fully reopen until 14 May 2020. A timeline is available on the Unite against Covid-19 website:

9: Before 1 July 2021, He Poutama Rangatahi was administered by Kānoa (which was previously the Provincial Development Unit) in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

10: Ministry of Education (2016), Te Rāngai Kāhui Ako ā-Iwi.