29 May 2024

What the Census tells us about the Māori population

9:01 pm on 29 May 2024
Tainui leader Rahui Papa says a new agreement with Oranga Tamariki marks a step up in the tribe’s ability to look at its mokopuna in times of trouble.

Te Kāhui Raraunga chair Rahui Papa. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

The 2023 Census marked a shift in how Māori census data is stored - it is the first time census data has been released on a non-government owned platform.

Te Whata is designed and operated by iwi as part of a Mana Ōrite relationship agreement between the Data Iwi Leaders Group (Data ILG) and Statistics NZ.

There were failings in how Māori data was collected in the 2013 and 2018 censuses, Te Kāhui Raraunga chairperson Rahui Papa said.

"There were fallibilities, there were some anomalies and really some communities were left wanting in the data capture, so we put our hand up in 2019 and created what we now know as a Mana Ōrite relationship with Stats NZ."

The Mana Ōrite partnership led to a pilot program, Te Mana Whakatipu, which saw iwi leading the census in parts of Northland, Gisborne and the eastern Bay of Plenty.

The programme saw the participation rate far exceed that national average for Māori, getting as high as 92 percent in one of the pilot regions.

While the new data platform was designed with iwi in mind, Te Whata and the data it held was available to all New Zealanders. But particular iwi data would remain sacrosanct to that iwi, Papa said.

"[Iwi] can really plan for what their future might look like, they can plan for spending, they can plan for investment opportunities, they can plan for social benefits for their communities and it's not just about Māori, it's about the communities in which that iwi holds sway."

Iwi automatically had access to Te Whata and each iwi had a data steward that could access the platform and the data that was particular to that iwi, he said.

"It realises an aspiration of people like Sir Toby Curtis who said Māori must be the owners of their data, Māori must be the arbiters of their data so that they are telling their stories in their own way."

One in five Kiwis are of Māori descent

The Māori population count is hovering just below 1 million - an increase of 12.5 percent to 978,246 people compared with 869,850 in 2018 Census.

This means that 19.6 percent of the population of Aotearoa have Māori whakapapa, this is different from the number of people who affiliate with Māori as an ethnic group, who make up 17.8 percent of the population. A person might acknowledge they are of Māori descent but not choose to identify as Māori.

The median age of the Māori population is 27.2 years, more than a decade younger than that of the total New Zealand population, which sits at 38.1 years.

While one in five New Zealanders are Māori, almost one in three New Zealanders under 25 are Māori.

Nearly a quarter, or 23.3 percent, of Māori live in the Auckland region.

Waikato and the Bay of Plenty follow as the most popular places for Māori to live, with 14.1 and 11.2 percent of the Māori population respectively.

However, the region where Māori make up the highest proportion of the population is Gisborne where more than half, or 56 percent, of the population is Māori.

This is followed by Northland at 39.9 percent and the Bay of Plenty at 32.9 percent.

Data relating particularly to iwi would be released later this year and into early next year on Te Whata, Papa said.

Future of Mana Ōrite

Te Kāhui Raraunga is keen to forge other relationships that would benefit not just Māori but Aotearoa in general, Papa said.

"Given the success of Te Mana Whakatipu and the rise in percentages of data capture we are going gung-ho to make sure that that is an example that can be looked upon across the country."

Te Kāhui Raraunga is also interested in looking into other aspects of data and technology, such as how to approach AI, he said.

Deputy government statistician Rachael Millicich said Te Mana Whakatipu was focused on the data collection and work would continue with Te Kāhui Raraunga.

"But now that initiative is moving into how do you build data capability, so how do we support iwi and Māori to use that data. We are working really closely and there is a range of initiatives still to come," she said.

Census Insights senior manager Nikki Prins added that the release of Māori population data on Te Whata had been a great outcome of the 2023 census.

"We are really excited to continue that journey across second and subsequent releases," she said.