The Government is looking at a dramatic restructuring of its Maori agencies as it makes way for Te Arawhiti, the Maori-Crown relations ministry.

In the process, the current lead Maori agency, Te Puni Kokiri, is likely to see its staff dramatically reduced.

POLITIK has been leaked an internal paper setting out how the new Ministry might work and how it is being set up.

The paper strongly suggests the new Ministry will replace te Puni Kokiri (TPK) as the lead Maori agency for the Government and that it will have an influence which spreads right across Government.

That may be enhanced by the appointment of a specialist Maori advisor in key Government agencies.

Te Arawhiti  will also lead the way into a new era of Treaty claims as the old grievances are mostly all heard and there is a new slate of so-called “modern” claims on issues as diverse as intellectual property or water.

The paper suggests the new agency could have around 250 employees. Around 200 would come from the Ministry of Justice.

And it says another 50 or 60 could come from Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, which is currently the lead Maori agency.

Sources have told POLITIK that it is likely that Te Puni Kokiri will be shrunk and transformed into a boutique policy agency while its operational activities would be taken up by Te Arawhiti.

Unless that happens,  the Government could end up with around 600 civil servants dealing with Maori issues.


That number compares with just 426 in Treasury or 300 in the Ministry for the Environment.

Minister for Maori-Crown Relations, Kelvin Davis, walking onto his home Karetu Marae with the Prime Minister and other Labour colleagues on Waitangi weekend this year.

Explaining the difference between Te Puni Kokiri and Te Arawhiti, Maori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin David told RNZ last month that Te Puni Kōkiri’s work “was not organised or complete enough” and that Te Arawhiti’s role was focused on a wide-ranging response to Māori needs across the public sector.

“The Ministry of Māori Development, Te Puni Kokiri, work to strengthen Māori capacity and capability and Te Arawhiti will work with public service to strengthen the government’s capacity to deal and work alongside Māoridom,” he said.

He said the difference between the two agencies would be “significant”.

The paper seen by POLITIK included the assessment that “TPK (will) bring a Maori view in. TA  (will be) focussed on how the Crown engages.”

The p[paper says  Te Arawhiti will have responsibility for leading the improvement in Crown’s capability to engage in the Treaty partnership. 

But it says the responsibility for this will go beyond the new Ministry and will need to involve the leadership of other Government departments and Ministries. 

It says there are now work streams that will include how to get a Te Ao Maori  (Maori world) perspective into policy-making.

Public servants will need to be trained on issues like “unconscious bias” and the Ministry of Justice is apparently piloting an engagement programme. 

Minister for maori Development, Nanaia Mahuta

The Government wants to be able to measure what “good partnership” is by 2020 and is currently doing a review of “good” Maori Crown partnership including interviews and case studies. 

There will also continue to be pressure on “difficult” issues like water and the Waitangi Tribunal claim relating to Maori intellectual property. 

That claim has the potential to disrupt the lucrative Manuka honey industry.

This will raise questions about the role of the Waitangi Tribunal and its role in hearing so-called “modern’ claims rather than the historic grievances which it has all but now finished hearing. 

“Ministers want to move away from an emphasis on the transgressions to moving forward in partnership,’ the paper says. 

“Ministers are starting to think about this, so officials need to be getting into this head-space.” 

The whole process is working on tight deadlines with the Ministry to be established in late December. 

What is being proposed is the most radical shake-up of the Government’s Maori agencies since the Department of Maori Affairs was abolished in 1989. 

But his time around the impetus and detail of the new Ministry has come from Maori themselves through the 20 hui that Kelvin Davis held around the country in April. 

Notes issued after those hui showed there was a strong theme of Maori wanting a genuine partnership with the Crown and that by the Crown they meant the whole of Government. 

That will be the challenge for the new Ministry.