Māori engagement hui

We know sport and recreation is important in helping Māori to achieve well-being as tangata whenua. We also know that issues, such as bullying, unfair treatment, discrimination, and racism can have a serious and detrimental impact on those involved. It can lead to people dropping out of teams and other recreation activities they really enjoy and would otherwise be involved in. We want to better understand how we can improve experiences, in a day-to-day setting, and the best way to address poor behaviour when it does occur.


We held several hui (online and kanohi ki te kanohi) in March 2023 to hear from Māori about their experience of integrity issues – both good and bad – while playing sport or being involved in recreation.

You can read the background information provided for those hui, and the pātai that prompted the korero, here. 

Māori engagement hui thumbnail showing young cricketers in action

Following the hui in March, Pou Tikanga facilitated a follow-up session titled “Tutū te Puehu” (roughly “Kicking up the Dust”) in May 2023. This is a summary of the Māori engagement hui on integrity in sport and recreation:

Summary of Māori engagement hui on integrity in sport and recreation

  • We held a total of five engagement hui, with three online hui and two kanohi-ki-te-kanohi hui in Tāmaki Makaurau and Ōtautahi. The hui were facilitated by Pou Tikanga with support from the Integrity Transition Programme team. Members of the Māori Advisory Group and the Integrity Transition Committee attended some of the hui to listen.
  • The sessions revolved around three pātai:
    – What do you and others you know, know about integrity issues in sports and recreation?
    – What do you think and feel about what happened?
    – What do you want to happen?
  • We have summarised the contributions below under a variety of themes. The first two questions are grouped together as participants’ experiences and impact often blended together. The summary below is anonymised.
  • On 12 May 2023, Pou Tikanga facilitated a follow-up session titled “Tutū te Puehu” (roughly “Kicking up the Dust”). The aim of the follow-up session was to test the summary of what we had heard and provide a further opportunity for people to contribute. Holding this session was also intended to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the relationship with Māori.
  • A total of 31 people attended the March hui and shared their whakaaro. The participants were predominantly Māori along with some tauiwi and Pākehā contributors also.
  • Attendees represented a range of perspectives and backgrounds within sport and recreation including as athletes / participants, coaches and administrators, volunteers, parents/whānau, and researchers.
  • The participants were involved in a range of sports, both in the mainstream and in Māori spaces. Most were involved in more than one activity.
  • 13 people attended the Tutū te Puehu follow-up session, along with four of the Māori Advisory Group.

Sport and recreation can be a positive space with significant opportunities for whānau Māori

  • Many of the participants expressed a sense of being fortunate to have worked and participated in a variety of sports.
  • People highlighted that sport and physical recreation was a way to connect to whakapapa and whānau, and express manaaki and rangatiratanga, particularly in Māori sporting contexts.

The integrity issue most raised by participants was racism within mainstream sporting environments

  • Participants identified integrity issues that occurred within both mainstream sport and kaupapa Māori sport but noted that the issues, and how they were dealt with, were different.
  • Integrity issues identified in kaupapa Māori sport were most often linked to eligibility to participate (e.g. whakapapa) or behaviour not aligned with the kaupapa. These issues were often resolved through whānau centred approaches.
  • Participants also identified that integrity issues for Māori can have broader impacts because people are representing their whānau, hapū and iwi, not just themselves.
  • Racism – both structural and interpersonal – was the issue most frequently identified by participants. This occurred when participating in mainstream sports and when Māori teams (such as kura Māori) were participating in mainstream competitions.

Interpersonal racism targeting Māori is prevalent in sport

  • Many of the participants shared direct and indirect experiences of racism targeted at Māori, highlighting that racism is prevalent in the sector. Examples of racist behaviour included:
    – Derogatory and racially abusive comments on the field, side-lines, and in the workplace (e.g. name calling and racist slurs).
    – Denial of opportunities given to other sportspeople (e.g. not being selected).
    – Lack of respect for tikanga Māori, including negative consequences for practicing tikanga and upholding te Tiriti o Waitangi.
    – Being told not to speak te reo Māori, including being penalised for it in some environments, mispronunciation of ingoa Māori, and people using kupu Māori without integrity.
    – Misappropriation of mātauranga Māori and te reo Māori.
    – Attribution of stereotypes relating to Māori (e.g. teenage pregnancy, “naturally” good athletes).

“These players felt totally unacknowledged -their culture, their needs were not being met in the mainstream structure, in a semi-professional environment.”

  • Participants spoke of the hurt and whakamā that these experiences caused to whānau, in particular for rangatahi and tamariki (see below). In the worst cases, it led to people giving up the activity and not returning.
  • Further, these effects perpetuate when Māori make decisions about their broader involvement and that of their tamariki. This extends to the professional aspect of sport and recreation where the presence of racism and bias have resulted in places where Māori do not see themselves and do not feel safe. Even if they do become involved, they are not included and valued.
  • When representing your whānau, hapū, and iwi, the implications are wider than just those related to sport.
  • Participants highlighted that Māori did not face discrimination in the same way in environments built on tikanga Māori, such as waka ama or kī-o-rahi.

There are also concerns about structural racism and inequitable resourcing

  • The level of resources was also a recurring theme, with participants highlighting concerns around equity of funding for grassroots sport and clubs in particular. The lack of funding meant there were fewer opportunities for Māori and Pacific peoples.
  • There was also discussion of the fact that this had come about following years of inequity and exclusion in relation to structures, opportunity, facilities, selections and general acceptance. This means Māori often do not start at the same level as non-Māori and, as time goes on, those disadvantages grow.

“It’s kind of everywhere and we see only the tip of the iceberg. Revealing those stories … is important. It’s not just a one-off, it’s systemic, structural, and deliberate.”

  • Some participants also raised concerns about ‘cultural taxation’ where people and organisations (deliberately or otherwise) sought expertise in te ao Māori from them, but they were not remunerated or acknowledged.
  • Participants spoke of the fact that limited capacity and capability in organisations impacted Māori more as cultural responsiveness was not prioritised. This was more prevalent when high performance was compared with grass roots. There is very little “for Māori, by Māori” design in high performance sport.
  • Some participants described the impact of colonisation and colonial power systems that lead to marginalisation, racism, barriers to funding, and exclusion from mainstream spaces.
  • Participants noted that official recognition and funding structures were built on Pākehā values/definitions, which could prevent Māori sports from receiving support they required to thrive. They also highlighted a lack of media coverage celebrating Māori sports environments or Māori achievements in mainstream sports.

There are insufficient levels of Māori leadership and representation in the sector

  • Participants raised concerns about low levels/lack of Māori in governance and leadership positions in sport and active recreation. This makes progression more difficult for Māori.
  • It was also noted that if there is representation, it can be isolated and potentially quiet as those spaces may not feel safe for Māori.
  • There was also discussion about male influence in leadership and when coupled with this, Māori feel they have even less opportunity as the western constructs that currently exist are perpetuated.

“There’s not necessarily a pathway for people to enter the sector as Māori because the pathway is built on being non-Māori.”

Significant concern about intergenerational harm and the effect on tamariki and rangatahi

  • The conversation regularly focussed on the impact on tamariki and rangatahi. Many of the examples of racist behaviour (see above) had been targeted at rangatahi and tamariki.
  • Participants spoke of the pressures on rangatahi and tamariki, for example the emphasis on winning starting at an early age.
  • The interaction between education/schools and sport was also a significant focus of some kōrero, with concern that insufficient emphasis was placed on education.
  • Youth professionalisation and the associated pressures were discussed, more specifically the contrast these environments have with tikanga values, e.g. secondary school sports, financial implications for Māori (some are whakamā about not having enough money) – this makes Māori vulnerable.
  • These impacts are even more intense in overseas environments where tikanga is completely absent and athletes can get homesick. Further, Māori don’t have equitable opportunities to shine.

Lack of accountability where integrity issues arise

  • Overall, there was a strong sense that accountability was lacking in the sector.
  • Participants gave a range of examples where integrity issues, and racism in particular, were raised with organisations but were not dealt with satisfactorily. As a result, people were not held to account and nor was the organisation itself.
  • There were also examples of people feeling disempowered and unable to ‘call out’ the behaviour when it occurred for fear of creating conflict or becoming a target themselves. The system did not encourage people to raise issues and they therefore had to tolerate it or push back, both of which could carry a significant personal cost.

There is a sense of common experience with other communities

  • Participants highlighted that experiences of racism were not limited to Māori, but also impacted on Pacific peoples and other ethnic minorities (e.g., people of Asian or African whakapapa).

Tikanga Māori is a positive basis upon which to build in the sport and recreation sector

  • Participants agreed that te Tiriti o Waitangi and tikanga Māori were a sound basis to build from, not just for Māori but for all people.
  • Participants highlighted ngā uaratanga (values) such as manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga and Māori-ki-te-Māori, and gave examples of where these had been successful. For example:
    – Super Rugby Aupiki competition and kaupapa had used tikanga as its basis so in that environment wāhine can “do and be.”
    – Running competitions where points were awarded for demonstrating values, not just points on the scoreboard.
    – Kura and marae-based experiences can be positive vehicles for sport and recreation.
  • Such values must be baked in and authentic with Māori included at the table. This means removing dominant paradigms and replace with a kaupapa Māori approach.
  • Similarly, participants strongly emphasised that tikanga values can be applied to shape good integrity or ‘what good looks like’. Because they centre around mana preservation and enhancement and the importance of understanding what is tika and pono, they are a natural basis for a code for everybody, not just Māori. There was a strong view that works for Māori will work for everybody.
  • Development of guidelines / resources / workshops for sport at all levels that identify key values / tikanga relevant to Māori practices that can be shared to influences their system and processes.
  • Mediation model that is possibly based on Te Whare Tapa Wha model.
  • Advocacy for smaller codes such as mau rākau, ki-o-rahi.

“[I] thought about haka [and] ngā taonga tākaro – it’s a space for healing, space of expression, connection and healing. How can we encourage that and celebrate that as a whole?”

People need to be held to account

  • There was a clear sense that the system needed to hold people to account for racism and other misconduct.
  • However, several participants highlighted that this did not mean simply punishing people where wrongdoing occurred. There needs to be wrap-around support in place too so that the behaviour is not repeated (e.g. education).
  • Support for monitoring was strong, with clear accountability pathways (i.e., the buck stops at national level, this will help shift conversations).
  • Alternative options are desired when complaints at club and regional level are not handled appropriately or in a timely way.
  • Some participants stressed the importance of people committing to calling out bad behaviour, even where it was difficult. Equally, they highlighted that people need to trust the systems so they feel empowered to call things out, so there needs to be mechanisms to protect and support that.
  • Support will be required to ensure successful organisational implementation.

“We must challenge and have mana-enhancing actions that ensure the focus of our people and needs of our people are centralised…we need to decolonise and decentre the current power system.”

Education has a major role to play

  • Collaboration is required with the education sector to ensure rohe input and avoid homogenous approach.
  • Career and education pathways need to be available and accessible and obvious for Māori.
  • Education is critical to set “what good looks like” – support kids to be safe and fair, winning is not the ultimate. Knowledge (education) is power and can help ensure Māori are positioned well for leadership roles.
  • Drive conversations through education i.e. of risks and issues but also to build capability driven by tikanga.
  • Sport and recreation can be used as vehicles to attain education for Māori (e.g. if scholarships structured appropriately).

Rangatahi are important voices

  • Ensure inclusion to avoid ageism and impact on mana, these voices should be heard and nurtured. Recognise how rangatahi and tamariki interact, where they congregate and what is important to them – they are the future of our sector.
  • Understand who rangatahi take notice of, who their Māori role models are, and who contributes to moulding their aspirations and behaviours.
  • Ensure tikanga is retained in professional environments and when rangatahi are removed from their support networks.
  • This is often the area where funding is at its most disparate, mechanisms to access funding need to be proactive and accessible.

“Focus on being whānau centric and utilise the systems that work for whānau.”

More opportunities for Māori leadership are needed along with support for Māori staff

  • There needs to be Māori representation in governance and leadership. Wāhine Māori presence in leadership is important, ensuring the environment is safe and welcoming.
  • More needs to be done around iwi involvement. Te Waipounamu representation important, including for the Commission and the Māori Advisory Group.
  • Recognise that opportunities have not been equitable, so get people in positions for the right reasons. A support, growth and development approach may be required.
  • Recognise and appropriately remunerate tikanga expertise and their value in a competitive and/or professional environment.
  • Having Māori as pioneers and champions is powerful. There are some great examples in history (e.g. Marg Hiha) and the present (e.g. Sarah Hirini).
  • Participants also noted that bringing together Māori in the sector from across multiple sports, like in these hui, was a valuable opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga, learning and to provide support for each other.

Action is needed, not just words

  • Many participants highlighted the importance of not just relying on words/documents to achieve change, and that te Tiriti cannot just be kupu in the Code.
  • A code’s a code – but we see all sorts of strategic codes for all sorts of things, and they’re all great. Without systemic change, though, we won’t see a safe, mana-enhancing environment. A code driven by tikanga values will provide a strong basis that serves everyone.

“Wero – don’t let this sit on the shelf and collect dust. Let’s activate and be accountable for implementing it. Mindful of these pretty looking documents for Māori that sit there looking pretty.”