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Why do we need Ngā Tikanga Paihere?

Ngā Tikanga Paihere supports ethical data practice and research by ensuring that practitioners meaningfully involve the community of focus, are transparent about how data is being used, think about the positive and negative consequences on communities, and meet both of the data-related obligations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and human rights considerations.

Meaningful community participation

Ethical research and data practice is defined by safe, responsible, and respectful community participation at all times. 

Research without participation

For a long time, the voice of Māori were left out of research and data practice that focused on their communities. As a result, those communities, and the country, have suffered.

That is, non-Māori researchers often live temporarily in Māori communities, complete their research, and then leave to analyse and prepare their findings without community involvement. As a result, the research often lacked important cultural information, the communities involved felt powerless to influence the stories being used to make decisions about them, and most importantly, the research failed to improve Māori health outcomes. 

The days of research on Māori communities, without meaningful Māori participation, are over.

Ensuring Māori participation in research

We have learnt. If research using data wishes to contribute toward real and improved outcomes for Māori, then it must have a strong level of Māori participation. As such, researchers must now go through institutional processes where committees assess proposals for research ethics and Māori consultation requirements.

In fact, we have become increasingly delighted to see that many research projects today reflect tikanga principles, particularly when research focuses on whānau (family), hapū (clan, localised tribe), iwi (wider tribal entity), communities, and individuals, and their ways of life.

Ngā Tikanga Paihere was designed to help researchers understand tikanga principles and make this possible. 

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

The tikanga principles work particularly well to safeguard and protect the relationships researchers form with participants and their communities. This approach to research is not only guided by tikanga, but by kaupapa Māori (Māori values and social practices) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi principles.

Importantly, these are not new ideas – many forms of research reflect tikanga and Te Tiriti/Treaty based principles, and more forms are likely to emerge in the future.

Human rights considerations

As well as addressing the obligations of Te Tiriti, Ngā Tikanga Paihere includes the human rights considerations, described in The Human Rights Act 1993 by the Human Rights Commission, alongside the tikanga principles. The Human Rights Act 1993 protects the human rights of all people of Aotearoa NZ.

The Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Act 1993

The Human Rights Commission recognises and actively promotes a better understanding of the human rights dimensions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its relationship with domestic and international human rights law.

The Human Rights Act 1993 protects an individual’s right to freedom from discrimination, ensuring that individuals can complain if they feel these rights have been breached.

This is relevant, as in the context of collecting big data and applying algorithms to inform social policy, there is a risk that individuals may be discriminated against. Furthermore, by their very nature, predictive risk modelling, data mining, and other big data or algorithm-based approaches use personal information in a way that raises questions about individual privacy and human rights.

Again, Ngā Tikanga Paihere, similar to the 5 Safes Framework, is designed to help researchers protect the safety of personal information, think through possibility for discrimination, think about the effect of their research on the people it looks to understand, and ensure outputs remain confidential.  

5 Safes Framework

The government has also created other operational and procedural safeguards in social sector agencies to protect against the risk of human right's breaches. For instance, the Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework (from the Ministry of Social Development) and the Data Protection and Use Policy (from the Social Wellbeing Agency).

Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework
Data Protection and Use Policy

Contact us

If you’d like more information, have a question, or want to provide feedback, email

Content last reviewed 23 November 2020.

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