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Ngā Tikanga Paihere

Mā ngā tikanga e arahina - Be guided by good principles [1]

Ngā Tikanga Paihere is a framework and tool that:

  • guides safe, responsible, and culturally appropriate use of data
  • ensures data use is carefully considered
  • ensures data practices occur in good faith.

The framework draws on 10 tikanga (Te Ao Māori/Māori world concepts) and aligns with the current model of the 5 Safes Framework which is used to manage safe access to integrated data at Stats NZ.

5 Safes Framework

Ngā Tikanga Paihere was originally designed to build and maintain public trust and confidence in the way Stats NZ manages access to microdata[2] in the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). 


Development of Ngā Tikanga Paihere

What are tikanga?

Practical application of tikanga

Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles in action

Human rights considerations

Data and tikanga considerations

Tikanga considerations in microdata access

Tikanga explanations

An overview of Ngā Tikanga Paihere

Principle 1: Have appropriate expertise, skills, and relationships with communities



Principle 2: Maintain public confidence and trust to use data



Principle 3: Use good data standards and practices



Principle 4: Have clear purpose and action



Principle 5: Balance benefits and risks





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Help us refine Ngā Tikanga Paihere.

  • Which parts of the framework need more explanation?
  • What else would you like to know?

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Development of Ngā Tikanga Paihere

Ngā Tikanga Paihere was developed in 2018 by Stats NZ and Māui Hudson, Associate Professor at Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Waikato.

The framework was designed to guide the appropriate use of microdata in the IDI, with a focus on how data about Māori and other under-represented sub-groups is used for research purposes.

Ngā Tikanga Paihere also guides data users and researchers on how they could bring better insights to the data, by building relationships with communities from whom the data originates.

In publishing the framework Stats NZ encourages others to apply Ngā Tikanga Paihere in other data use contexts.  

What are tikanga?

Tikanga are appropriate customary practices or ‘layers of the culture’ developed by Māori communities and individuals and informed by common cultural values and concepts.[3] Tikanga are more than just ‘rules’. They are best described as a form of social control and can guide the way relationships are formed, provide ways for groups to interact, and even guide the way people identify themselves.[4] Tikanga informs frameworks that address ethical issues and guide good behaviour and practice when engaging with Māori and the things that matter to them.

Practical applications of tikanga

In Aotearoa New Zealand, tikanga are already present in many domains and have become widely known and accepted for some time. They exist in many corners of our society, heard on television and radio, and seen in almost all daily interactions from social media and classrooms, to the sports fields. References to tikanga and their definitions appear in some of our legislation, education policies, government services, court processes, and political systems. Tikanga principles reflected in areas beyond the marae context is not new, neither is it unheard of in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles in action

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. For a long time, Māori were rarely involved in research about themselves and their culture. It was left to non-Māori who lived in these communities, completed their research, and were then sent on their way. But Mead says these days are over.[5] Researchers must now go through institutional processes where committees assess proposals for research ethics and Māori consultation requirements.[6]

The need to work safely and respectfully with Māori communities for future impact has increased, particularly in the social, health, and justice sectors. In the health sector, the primary health care system needs urgent reform of its legislative and policy framework to address Māori health inequities.[7] Research into Māori health requires a strong level of Māori participation to ensure that research contributes towards improved health and wellbeing outcomes.[8]

The tikanga principles work particularly well to safeguard and protect the relationships researchers form with participants and their communities.[9] 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.

In the justice sector, leading experts say a Te Tiriti-based approach, including making tikanga and Te Ao Māori values a core part of the operation of the justice system, would help address a range of failures disproportionately affecting Māori.[10] 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

The Human Rights Commission is responsible for maintaining the Human Rights Act 1993 which ensures the human rights of all people of Aotearoa New Zealand are protected. Human rights considerations are included in Ngā Tikanga Paihere and are viewed alongside the tikanga principles. The 5 Safes and Ngā Tikanga Paihere frameworks ensure personal information is kept safe and outputs remain confidential which is consistent with individual privacy and protection of personal information.[11] Under Section 5(2)(d) of the Act, the Commission recognises and actively promotes a better understanding of the human rights dimensions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi and its relationship with domestic and international human rights law.

The Act protects an individual’s right to freedom from discrimination and they can complain if they feel these rights have been breached. In the context of collecting big data and applying algorithms to that data to generate risk outcomes that then informs social policy, there is a risk that individuals may be discriminated against.[12] Further, the Commission maintain that there are implications on individual privacy and human rights due to the inherent nature of the algorithmic approach – such as predictive risk modelling, data mining, etc.[13] The government is proposing operational and procedural safeguards in social sector agencies to safeguard the risk of human rights breaches occurring. Two of these protection measures are the Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework (from the Ministry of Social Development) and the Data Protection and Use Policy (from the Social Investment Agency).[14] 

Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework

Data Protection and Use Policy

From a data stewardship perspective, researchers must consider the effect of their research on the people whose data and personal information they are using. Specifically, they must consider whether their research carries the potential to discriminate people on the grounds of race, ethnicity, age, gender, persuasion, ability, and religion and develop appropriate mitigations to ensure that no discrimination will occur. There are appropriate complaint mechanisms when people feel discriminated against which are facilitated by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Data and tikanga considerations

“Tikanga Māori accompanies Māori wherever they go and whatever they do. Tikanga Māori is adaptable, flexible, transferable, and capable of being applied to entirely new situations.”[15]

The tikanga considerations that appear in Ngā Tikanga Paihere first seen in earlier Māori data advocacy work,[16] and later developed with Maui Hudson from the University of Waikato.

The tikanga considerations of this framework align with the Data Stewardship Framework[17] which aims to establish goals, boundaries, and principles to guide and inform good data practice. Data stewardship is the careful and responsible creation, collection, management, and use of data. The government stewards and uses data on behalf of its people; it has a duty to ensure data is managed as a valuable asset and is used ethically. Public trust and confidence in managing and providing access to Aotearoa New Zealand's data underpins data stewardship. Ngā Tikanga Paihere takes a deliberately mindful approach to the way we use and care for Aotearoa New Zealand’s data.

Tikanga considerations in microdata access

The vision of Ngā Tikanga Paihere is to ensure data use is consistent with the tikanga that appear in the framework. In Stats NZ, the Integrated Data Unit uses the 5 Safes and Ngā Tikanga Paihere frameworks to examine microdata access applications. The Unit uses a set of considerations that may surface gaps in the applications that are then the target of recommendations we provide. Data access for research of a sensitive nature is not necessarily restricted – we aim for balance between good research objectives, appropriate conduct, and respecting and maintaining the integrity of all those involved.

Responsiveness to Māori

Any research project that is planning to look at Māori and their cultural elements needs to consider Māori methodologies in its philosophical foundation. Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s work[18] in decolonising methodologies is one of the well-known peer-esteemed publications.  Smith provides a list of critical points for consideration for all researchers studying in indigenous subject areas:

  • What research do we want to carry out?
  • Who is that research for?
  • What difference will it make?
  • Who will carry out this research?
  • How do we want the research to be done?
  • How will we know it is a worthwhile piece of research?
  • Who will own the research?
  • Who will benefit?

These critical points are high-level criteria of researcher’s responsiveness to Māori as a large group. Some research projects would naturally concentrate their focus on smaller groups of Māori, which requires further considerations, rather than taking a blanket approach for all Māori. 

Whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori groups

Ngā Tikanga Paihere applies in full to microdata research applications with a direct focus on whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori groups, their associated customs such as te reo Māori (Māori language), activities relating to their whenua (tribal lands), or other interests such as Treaty claims and settlements. Specifically, Ngā Tikanga Paihere applies to research applications that touch on some of the Māori development topics referred to in He Arotahi Tatauranga, the Māori Statistical Framework[19] in table 1. Ngā Tikanga Paihere can still be used when research topics are not explicitly focused on Māori people but still might be of interest to Māori.

Table 1: Māori development topics of significant interest to Māori

  • Māori language
  • Māori knowledge
  • Marae
  • Wāhi taonga
  • Wāhi tapu
  • Māori land
  • Population
  • Families and households
  • Social connections and attachments
  • Modern knowledge, skills, and attachments
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Income and expenditure
  • Work
  • Social issues
  • Māori business development
  • Participation in political decision-making
  • Rights

Due to the likelihood of data gaps in the official data system, iwi or hapū focused microdata research applications will be carefully considered by reviewers on an individual case-by-case basis using the Stats NZ microdata access review process.

Groups other than Māori

Microdata research applications that focus on our most marginalised sections of society, including under-represented ethnicities and subgroups at risk of negative harm through data use, are also assessed using Ngā Tikanga Paihere. Research applications that do not identify ethnicities or where topics are very general in nature will still be reviewed alongside other aspects of the application as part of the usual microdata access review process. But overall, support for applications will be given where the data use can provide rich insights about our communities to inform decision-making, improve services, drive innovation, and contribute towards filling significant data gaps. Recommendations for approval are made to the Government Statistician Te Manatatau Kāwanatanga when applicants provide relevant information as outlined in Ngā Tikanga Paihere.


[1] Translation provided by E.T. Paranihi (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou), 2020.

[2] Microdata in the IDI is mainly administrative data provided by government agencies, including census and population data. There are two major outputs: IDI, mainly for individuals or persons, and LBD or longitudinal business data.

[3] Duncan, S. & Rewi. P. (2018). Tikanga: how not to get told off. In Reilly, M., Duncan S., Leoni, G., Paterson, L., Carter, L., Ratima, M. and Rewi, P (Eds), Te Kōparapara: An introduction to the Māori World. Auckland Uni Press. p.31.

[4] Mead, H.M. (2016). Tikanga Māori: Living by Māori values (Revised edition). Huia Publishers and Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

[5] Mead, 2016, p.349.

[6] For example, the University of Otago has a policy called Research Consultation with Māori which provides the framework for an appropriate and mandated consultation process with Māori for research. It ensures an effective and efficient mechanism for managing the consultation process while acknowledging the needs and aspirations of Ngāi Tahu for Māori development and benefit in Ngāi Tahu Vision 2025.

[7] Waitangi Tribunal. (2019). Hauora: Pre-publication Report on Stage One of the Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry (Wai 2575). Waitangi Tribunal. p.161.

[8] Simmonds, Shirley. (2015). A Framework for Māori Review of Research in District Health Boards: A joint research project between Auckland, Waitematā, and Capital and Coast District Health Boards. p.6

[9] Hudson M., Milne M., Reynolds P., et al (2010). Te Ara Tika: Guidelines for Māori Research Ethics: A framework for researchers and ethics committee members. Akl: Health Research Council on behalf of the Pūtaiora Writing Group. pp.1-2.

[10] Te Uepū Hapai I te Ora/Safe and Effective Justic Advisory Group. (2019). Turuki! Turuki! Move Together! Paneke! Paneke! First principles, first steps: Transforming our criminal justice system. (Second report of Te Uepū Hapai I te Ora Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group). p.25.

[11] Human Rights Commission. (2018). Privacy, Data and Technology: Human Rights Challenges in the Digital Age. A paper issued by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

[12] Human Rights Commission, 2018, p.36-37.

[13] Human Rights Commission, 2018, p.43.

[14] The Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics Framework (PHRaE) is a set of capability and tools with which users of information interact to ensure people’s Privacy, Human Rights and Ethics are considered from the design stage of a new initiative. The Data Protection and Use Policy (DPUP) is a policy that supports the respectful, trusted and transparent use of people’s data and information. 

[15] Mead, 2016, p.355.

[16] Presentation on Māori Data Sovereignty to government officials by Tahu Kukutai, Maui Hudson and Donna Cormack on 26/7/2017 at Te Puni Kōkiri, Wellington. The tikanga model was first developed by Maui Hudson and Dr Polly Atatoa Carr of the University of Waikato.

[17] Stats NZ. (2018). A draft data stewardship framework for NZ. Stats NZ. 

[18] Smith, L.T. (2015). Kaupapa Māori Research - Some Kaupapa Māori Principles.āori%20Research.pdf?sequence=21

[19] Stats NZ. (2014). Guide to using He Arotahi Tatauranga. Stats NZ. p.14.