Part 3: How Te Puni Kōkiri supports whānau-centred approaches and Whānau Ora

How well public organisations are supporting Whānau Ora and whānau centred approaches.

In this Part, we discuss:

We wanted to assess how well Te Puni Kōkiri has carried out its roles and responsibilities for whānau-centred approaches generally, and Whānau Ora specifically. We expected Te Puni Kōkiri to:

  • have clear roles and responsibilities in relation to Whānau Ora;
  • provide effective guidance to public organisations on supporting and implementing whānau-centred approaches;
  • have accountability arrangements for the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies in place, including clearly stated performance expectations;
  • monitor, analyse, and share information about the delivery and effectiveness of Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches; and
  • use information to improve the services that Whānau Ora provides and influence public organisations to support and implement whānau-centred approaches.

Summary of findings

Te Puni Kōkiri has made a good start on broadening whānau-centred approaches throughout the public sector. It is also administering aspects of Whānau Ora well. However, Te Puni Kōkiri has limited capacity to influence the significant change needed throughout the public sector to achieve its aims for whānau-centred approaches.

In our view, the mandate for the role of Te Puni Kōkiri needs to be stronger. Expectations for how public organisations are meant to support whānau-centred approaches, including Whānau Ora, also need to be clearer. We discuss this in detail in Parts 4 and 5.

Te Puni Kōkiri should bring together existing information on Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches so that this information is more accessible to public organisations, providers, and the public.

Te Puni Kōkiri is promoting whānau-centred approaches

Te Puni Kōkiri has made a good start on broadening the support for, and implementation of, whānau-centred approaches

Te Puni Kōkiri is taking action to influence public organisations to support and implement whānau-centred approaches.

In 2018, Te Puni Kōkiri was developing a whānau-centred policy framework to help public organisations develop policy in a more whānau-centred way. This includes improving the quality of public organisations' engagement with Māori. Te Puni Kōkiri has now completed this framework.

In 2019 and 2020, Te Puni Kōkiri held more than 20 workshops with public organisations' policy and operational staff. These workshops promoted the whānau-centred policy framework and discussed how staff could apply whānau-centred approaches to their work.

Te Puni Kōkiri told us that the workshops were well received and that public organisations have expressed an interest in further workshops. We also heard positive reports about the workshops from some public organisations. However, some people told us that they would still like more help understanding how to apply whānau-centred approaches to their work.

Because Te Puni Kōkiri was involved in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was too busy to hold more policy workshops. However, it intends to do so in the future. In the meantime, in discussions with other public organisations, Te Puni Kōkiri continues to take the opportunity to encourage whānau-centred approaches to policy and service development.

Te Puni Kōkiri told us that it helps public organisations to articulate whānau-centred concepts and encourages them to work in different ways. It said that it has started to notice a change in language in Cabinet papers as a result.

Te Puni Kōkiri also had a role in increasing investment in the Whānau Ora commissioning approach through Budget 2022.

At an operational level, Te Puni Kōkiri has worked closely with partner public organisations on the Paiheretia Te Muka Tāngata (see Part 4) and Ngā Tini Whetū (see Part 5) initiatives to broker relationships between public organisations and the iwi and Māori organisations involved.  

We heard – and evaluations of these initiatives confirm – that Te Puni Kōkiri played a key role in building relationships, improving understanding of whānau-centred approaches, and supporting these initiatives to get started.

A stronger mandate for the role of Te Puni Kōkiri is needed

Te Puni Kōkiri has statutory responsibilities to promote Māori achievement and monitor the services that departments and agencies provide to Māori.

The Minister for Māori Development and the Minister for Whānau Ora have set clear expectations for Te Puni Kōkiri. These are reflected in its aims to promote whānau-centred approaches throughout the public sector and encourage public organisations to invest in Whānau Ora.

However, neither Cabinet nor the Public Service Commissioner have explicitly defined a formal mandate or system leadership role for Te Puni Kōkiri to support greater progress towards these aims.

Te Puni Kōkiri told us it is working with Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission (Te Kawa Mataaho) to provide advice to the Minister for Whānau Ora about this.

Te Puni Kōkiri also developed an enterprise work plan for 2022/23 to guide how it progresses its strategic focus area. The work plan includes an aim to work with public organisations to develop and implement a public sector-wide strategy and plan to support whānau-centred approaches.

Te Puni Kōkiri cannot achieve these aims unless other public organisations play their part. In our view, Te Puni Kōkiri will have more success if it has a stronger mandate for increasing whānau-centred approaches to policy development and service delivery throughout the public sector. It will also have more success encouraging increased investment in Whānau Ora.

In our view, there also needs to be clearer expectations for public organisations about how they should support the aims of Te Puni Kōkiri for whānau-centred approaches and Whānau Ora. We discuss this in Parts 4 and 5.

Recommendation 1
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri seek to clarify the mandate for the role that it has for broadening whānau-centred approaches.

Te Puni Kōkiri is administering aspects of Whānau Ora well

We found that Te Puni Kōkiri is administering aspects of Whānau Ora well.

Te Puni Kōkiri, the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies, and providers have a common understanding of Whānau Ora as a concept, whānau-centred approaches, and Whānau Ora. This was evident from our conversations with them and from the various documents we reviewed.

When we carried out our audit of Whānau Ora in 2015, Te Puni Kōkiri did not yet have a clear and agreed outcomes framework for it. There is now a clear outcomes framework – called the Whānau Ora Outcomes Framework – that was developed and agreed by the Iwi Chairs Forum and the Crown. This is a positive development. The Whānau Ora Outcomes Framework provides a common point of reference for Te Puni Kōkiri, commissioning agencies, and providers.

We found examples of the Whānau Ora Outcomes Framework being referenced by, and influencing the work of, other public organisations. It was used in the development of the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, the Treasury's Living Standards Framework, and the Accident Compensation Corporation's tāngata whenua outcomes framework.

Roles and responsibilities for strategy, oversight, and the planning, commissioning, and delivery of services for Whānau Ora are clearly defined. These relate to the Minister for Whānau Ora, Te Puni Kōkiri, Whānau Ora commissioning agencies, and providers.

There are accountability arrangements for Whānau Ora in place. These include:

  • an annual letter from the Minister for Whānau Ora to the commissioning agencies setting out his expectations of them;
  • a four-year outcome agreement between Te Puni Kōkiri and each commissioning agency that requires commissioning agencies to prepare an annual investment plan, quarterly reports, and annual reports; and
  • the annual reporting of Te Puni Kōkiri against appropriations, which provides accountability to Parliament for spending and performance achieved.

Te Puni Kōkiri is using its expertise and available insights to support improvements to the Whānau Ora commissioning model, including:

  • actively advising the Minister for Whānau Ora to support him to make improvements – for example, by briefing him on funding matters and the governance review for Whānau Ora;
  • implementing the insights and recommendations of the Whānau Ora ministerial review about how it administers Whānau Ora, for example, trialling localised commissioning and considering governance arrangements; and
  • securing additional funding for the response to, and recovery from, the Covid-19 pandemic based on information from the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies.

Te Puni Kōkiri could tell a more compelling story about the performance of Whānau Ora

There is interest in the impact and value of Whānau Ora. Te Puni Kōkiri told us that it recognises that it is likely to have more success influencing other public organisations if it can tell a compelling story about the immediate and longer-term outcomes of Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

Currently, Te Puni Kōkiri receives regular reports from Whānau Ora commissioning agencies as part of their accountability requirements. The reports include information on the whānau that the commissioning agencies are assisting, the goals of the whānau, and the progress that whānau are making towards achieving these goals.

In our view, these reports include useful information about the impact Whānau Ora is having for whānau.

Te Puni Kōkiri has also commissioned and published information on the implementation and delivery of whānau-centred initiatives. It has done this to understand good practice and the factors that support and enable whānau-centred approaches. Examples include:

  • research on whānau-centred approaches in 2015;
  • an initial evaluation of the commissioning agency model in 2016; and
  • insights into effective whānau-centred primary health care services and support in 2020.

Te Puni Kōkiri has commissioned initial evaluations of Ngā Tini Whetū and Paiheretia Te Muka Tāngata and its ongoing trial of localised commissioning.

Te Puni Kōkiri is committed to improving the available information on what Whānau Ora has achieved. For example, it intends to build its data analytics capability and develop a new measurement framework for the Whānau Ora Outcomes Framework. It is also considering analysing data held in the public sector's Integrated Data Infrastructure database.16

Te Puni Kōkiri sees this work as critical to its ability to demonstrate the impact of, and increase investment in, Whānau Ora and other whānau-centred approaches.

Te Puni Kōkiri recognises that there are several challenges to improving performance reporting about Whānau Ora:

  • Taking whānau-centred approaches means that each whānau is working towards their own goals and aspirations. This makes it difficult to prepare an aggregate picture of the outcomes that are being achieved.
  • Te Puni Kōkiri receives reporting from the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies, but it does not have access to the underlying information and data from whānau that informs those reports.
  • There is some information about progress on short- and medium-term outcomes, but the long-term, intergenerational, and holistic nature of the outcomes being sought means that change will take time.
  • There are challenges in attributing outcomes to particular initiatives. Not only do whānau benefit from their own efforts to achieve their goals and aspirations, they also receive a wide range of services and support over time.

Some of these challenges are not unique to Te Puni Kōkiri. We have long held concerns about the quality of information available about the impacts of public sector services.17 However, we still think improvements can be made. In our view, it is important that Te Puni Kōkiri prioritise and complete its work to improve outcomes reporting.

Te Puni Kōkiri should also consider what broader information it can draw on to describe the performance of Whānau Ora.

The success of the commissioning approach relies on the strong network of iwi, hapū, providers, and community organisations that make up the Whānau Ora infrastructure, the key relationships and trust established between providers and whānau, and the holistic approach that Whānau Ora navigators take.

Te Puni Kōkiri should work with Whānau Ora commissioning agencies, providers, and whānau to develop performance reporting that better reflects the way that services are provided to whānau and how this supports whānau success. This would enable Te Puni Kōkiri to tell a richer performance story.

Te Puni Kōkiri told us that work to improve measures and use of the Integrated Data Infrastructure is part of its enterprise work plan for 2022/23.

Other public organisations evaluating whānau-centred initiatives and services will likely find the insights from Te Puni Kōkiri about how to improve performance reporting useful, particularly its insights about how the Whānau Ora system is operating.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri prioritise the completion of work to improve how it measures and reports the impacts and outcomes that whānau-centred approaches are achieving, and consider drawing on broader information about whānau successes.

Te Puni Kōkiri should make existing information on Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches more accessible

There is a range of monitoring, research, and evaluation information publicly available on Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

The Whānau Ora commissioning agencies and providers produce a lot of information through their reporting. They also commission research and evaluation to help inform their activities and tell the stories of whānau achievements. This provides a rich source of information on the effectiveness of what Whānau Ora delivers.

There is some research on, and evaluation of, government initiatives that include aspects of whānau-centred approaches, such as the evaluation of Te Pae Oranga, the New Zealand Police-led iwi community panels.18

Commissioning agencies told us that they regularly send their reports, research, and evaluations to public organisations. From what we have seen, these reports provide good insights into how Whānau Ora is working and what whānau are achieving.

However, it appears that public organisations are either unaware of or not making good use of this information. For this reason, we consider that it could be useful for Te Puni Kōkiri to collate this information and make it more accessible for the public, providers, and public organisations.

Te Puni Kōkiri told us it is scoping the development of a central repository of monitoring, research, and evaluation information about Whānau Ora and whānau-centred approaches.

In our view, this work would help address our concern about how well public organisations are using information about whānau-centred approaches, including Whānau Ora.

Recommendation 3
We recommend that Te Puni Kōkiri continue to identify the various available sources of monitoring, research, and evaluation information about the implementation and effectiveness of whānau-centred approaches and improve the accessibility of this information to public organisations, non-government organisations, and the public.

16: The Integrated Data Infrastructure is a large database run by the government that holds anonymised data about people and households. The data comes from public organisations, Statistics New Zealand surveys, and non-government organisations. This database allows for cross-sector research and evaluation. See "Integrated Data Infrastructure", at

17: See Office of the Auditor-General (1999), Third report for 1999: The accountability of Executive Government to Parliament; Office of the Auditor-General (2019), Observations from our 2017/18 central government audits; Office of the Auditor-General (2021), The problems, progress, and potential of performance reporting.

18: Te Pae Oranga is an initiative between the Police and iwi/Māori partners. It uses tikanga and kaupapa Māori and restorative justice processes to prevent reoffending by addressing the underlying issues that may lead to crime, such as addiction and financial stress.