Ministry for Culture and Heritage staff report 'lack of confidence with kaupapa Māori'

3:00 pm on 12 December 2021

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is grappling with a lack of Māori language and culture capabilities, according to internal surveys.

man on laptop

Photo: Public domain

The Ministry has 100 agreements with iwi around Treaty settlements and wanted to know how its staff are placed to cope.

In interviews for a survey last year, staff reported they "feel a lack of confidence with kaupapa Māori in general", and also spoke of a lack of resources.

In a separate culture survey this year, only 27 percent of staff said the ministry recognised and rewarded competency in te reo and tikanga.

The statement - "I feel culturally safe doing my job and working with Māori communities" - also gained just 27 percent assent.

One of of the Ministry's underpinning goals for years has been to protect and enhance tikanga, but it does not have any licensed translators or editors, with external translators used to produce bilingual material.

Its annual report showed 19 out of 21 top managers are Pākehā, and it has a significantly greater proportion of Pākehā staff than the public sector average.

The ministry told RNZ it was implementing changes, including creating three new adviser jobs on its Māori capability and engagement team, Te Pae Huarewa, that were "critical" for advancing its needs.

It had developed Tiriti principles to guide staff, and a spreadsheet that summarised iwi commitments.

Its Te Arataki engagement with Māori was now "sitting at the centre", it said in an OIA response.

It is still considering whether to create a coordination team.

The 2020 survey found Te Pae Huarewa was doing a "great job", but was under-resourced, with coordination "lacking" ministry-wide and a bitsy approach to relations with iwi.

"Interviewees expressed concern the ministry is understaffed to support work related to current settlement commitments. There is further concern that as settlement commitments increase, this issue will become worse."

The culture survey this year found widely varying levels of engagement and satisfaction among staff in general.

People believed that they were expected to show cultural skills, but that they were not sufficiently supported or rewarded for them, it said.

One respondent said: "Developing competency in te reo and tikanga is talked about a lot, but in the time I have been here I have not had the opportunity, or specifically given the time or resources, to actually develop these skills."

People who provided cultural support were stretched too thin, and those competent in te reo and tikanga "are expected to help everyone who needs it - even if it's not their job... [and] without adequate acknowledgement and compensation", others said.

Staff reported it being a safe and encouraging place to work, however, more than half felt underpaid and many were dissatisfied with progression.

"Many respondents expressed frustration that managers' priorities and expectations are unclear or change unexpectedly."

A minority raised problems about leaders "which were very negative and/or concerning" and had been passed to the chief executive in confidence.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs