Te whakapakari i te honongai waenga i te Māori me te Karauna – Strengthening the Māori-Crown relationship
The Public Service Act 2020 (Act), which came into force last year, was heralded as the biggest shake up to the public service in 30 years. The Act now recognises the role of the public service to support Crown relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Similar expectations are set for Crown entities under the "Enduring Letter of expectations – to Statutory Crown Entities".
If not doing so already, those in the private sector wishing to partner with the public sector are, accordingly, encouraged to consider how they can:
- reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their everyday work;
- develop and maintain their own capability to engage with Māori and to understand Māori perspectives; and
- enhance their employment policies and workplaces by recognising the aims, aspirations and employment requirements of Māori.
The Public Service Act 2020 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi
The Act replaced the State Sector Act 1988 and explicitly provides that the role of the public service includes supporting the Crown in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The "public service" is defined as public service agencies, which are (i) departments; (ii) departmental agencies; (iii) interdepartmental executive boards; and (iv) interdepartmental ventures.
The Public Service Commissioner (Commissioner), public service chief executives, interdepartmental executive boards, and boards of interdepartmental ventures have responsibility for:
- developing and maintaining the capability of the public service to engage with Māori and to understand Māori perspectives; and
- recognising the aims, aspirations and employment requirements of Māori and the need for greater involvement of Māori in the public service. This applies to the Commissioner, when developing and implementing a leadership strategy under the Act, and chief executives and boards when operating their employment policies.
These employment requirements are not enforceable under the Act by any party. However, chief executives, interdepartmental executive boards, and boards of interdepartmental ventures must report to the Commissioner on progress made towards achieving these employment responsibilities at intervals required by the Commissioner, and the relevant entities are generally responsible to their respective Ministers in respect of the requirements.
Broader than the public service
Similar expectations and obligations apply to Crown entities through other mechanisms.
Statutory Crown entities
Statutory Crown entities are entities created by statute and comprise Crown agents, autonomous Crown entities and independent Crown entities. Under the "Enduring letter of expectations – to Statutory Crown Entities", they are expected to "embody the Government’s good-faith and collaborative approach to Māori-Crown relationships" by:
- engaging appropriately and often with Māori on relevant issues;
- pursuing further opportunities for partnership with Māori entities and businesses;
- building staff Māori cultural capability including knowledge of tikanga Māori, te ao Māori, New Zealand history and how to address institutional racism;
- improving the Treaty-consistency of policy and practices (for example, considering using whānau-centred policies focused on improving the wellbeing of whanau as a collective); and
- promoting and supporting the revitalisation of te reo Māori by supporting the Maihi Karauna (Crown strategy for the revitalisation of te re Māori, see our previous article discussing the revitalisation here).
This provides a more practical description of what it means to engage with Māori and support the Māori-Crown relationship.
Further, all statutory Crown entities are required to be a "good employer" under the Crown Entities Act 2004. This means operating with a personnel policy which recognises the aims, aspirations and employment requirements of Māori, and the need for involvement of Māori as employees of the entity.
Some statutory Crown entities also have specific obligations and responsibilities to Māori in other legislation. For example, District Health Boards (which are Crown agents) have an obligation under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 to establish and maintain processes to enable Māori to participate in and contribute to strategies for Māori health improvement.
Te Arawhiti (The Office for Māori Crown Relations) offers resources for agencies looking to increase their capability to support relationships with Māori. (See, for example, the Maori Crown Relations Capability Framework for a comprehensive list of resources).
A number of Ministries have released their capability strategies. For example:
- The Ministry of Justice's capability plan, Te Kokenga; and
- The Ministry for the Environment's Te Ao Hurihuri – Transformational Gains capability strategy.
Kōrero mai – Speak to us
Get in touch if you'd like to kōrero (talk) about any aspect of this update or if there are other areas of the law touching on te ao Māori (the Māori world) where you or your organisation would like a refresher.