Accountability and Participatory Processes

The constitutional relationship between the organisation, ngā hapū, whānau and tribal members will differ under the distinct tikanga and kawa of each hapū and Iwi. However, there are likely to be shared expectations that each Iwi and Māori organisation:

  • is a tribal servant that exists to serve the needs, rights and aspirations of their members
  • exercises powers and authorities delegated by ngā hapū and tribal members and doesn’t itself have inherent authority – the Iwi organisation will only have those powers that ngā hapū and whānau agree that it should exercise

There are also likely to be high expectations about how the organisation ensures that it remains driven by the Iwi/hapū in its servant role and maintains the highest standards of accountability for what it does and how it does it.

Most Iwi and Māori organisations are governed through some form of representational structure whereby individual governors (trustees or directors) are elected by hapū, marae or another defined collective. Once elected, the role of the governors is to make decisions in the best interest of the whole collective and to remain accountable to the group that elected them. As will be familiar to many, the issues that typically arise include:

  • conflicts between loyalty to the hapū interest (or other collective that elected the representative) and the wider tribal interest
  • a perceived lack of information flow, so that hapū and whānau members do not consider that they have enough information about what the tribal organisation is doing
  • perceived lack of respect for the rangatiratanga of ngā hapū

The tools in this section bring together some practical ideas for how organisations can increase their accountability, with a particular emphasis on participatory processes.

The rationale for focussing on ways in which tribal members can participate and have ‘voice’ in directing the organisation are the principles and practices of public dialogue and debate and consensus building that have persisted within Te Aō Māori over generations. There also seems to be a sense amongst some communities that accountability is of limited efficacy unless it is seen to be done according to the principle of kanohi ki te kanohi.

Principles of Accountability

Setting out principles for accountability could assist with connecting contemporary practices to ancestral precedents and values. While the content of accountability principles will necessarily differ between organisations, useful approaches for some organisations could include:

  • recounting narratives associated with tūpuna and whakatauki/whakatauāki that express expectations of accountability
  • explicitly recognising the inherent rangatiratanga of ngā hapū
  • adopting values for the organisation that reflect expectations of accountability
  • expressly describing the organisation as a ‘servant’ of the tribal interest

These principles could be given effect in either a policy adopted by the governing board or embedded into the Trust Deed (or comparable instrument) in the purpose section.

Some examples include:
Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi – one of the values adopted is:

  • “Accountability- E kore tou maunga, tou awa, tou whenua, tou whenua e tika, me pehea koe e tika ai”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu – has recognised accountability and the inherent rangatiratanga of the Papatipu Rūnanga in the foundational governance instrument known as the Kawenata in two principles:

  • The Kaupapa Tahuhu of this Charter is the accountability of those charged with responsibility for the pūtea to our Papatipu Rūnanga, to our people and to future generations.
  • The Kaupapa Whakakotahi is that the poupou of the House of Tahu are the Papatipu Rūnanga of our people each with their own mana and woven together with the tukutuku of our whakapapa. In them resides the tino rangatiratanga of Ngāi Tahu. Its collective voice is Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Participation in Governance Processes

There are a range of ways that tribal members can actively participate in the decision making processes of the organisations’ governing board including:


The most direct way is for representatives to discuss prospective issues, strategies and decisions before they are considered by the board and to provide a comprehensive report after decisions are made. Some organisations assist representatives in this area by producing summary reports after every board meeting and distributing them widely to hapū and members (see for example the pānui produced by Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu.)

‘Shareholder Resolution’

Some companies have a mechanism known as a shareholder resolution that empowers shareholders to introduce resolutions to create rules about things that the company should or should not do. In the USA this is commonly used as an advocacy tool to try to encourage companies to respect environmental or social standards. Organisations could consider creating conditions or particular topics that whānau or hapū could create resolutions for. An example could be that hapū have the right to present resolutions on standards that will apply within their rohe/takiwā in terms of tribal programmes.

Broadening Speaking Rights

Most standing orders provide for whānau to attend board meetings, but restrict speaking rights to AGMs and other special circumstances. Changing these rules, so that there is a balance of being able to get on with the business as well as for whānau to speak to important issues, could be a way to increase the accountability of Iwi and Māori organisations.

Structural Responses

Structural options could be a way of bringing kaupapa experts into decision making and other aspects of the organisation. Some options include:

  • kaumatua advice to the board – creating an advisory body that provides advice directly to the board on particular issues, that has a clear terms of reference and perhaps brings together kaumatua from all marae, or all experts in a particular field could help with the organisation being seen to be accountable by persons of standing within the iwi
  • co-options onto the board – some organisations allow additional board members to be brought in for particular issues to provide advice. It seems to be a way for an organisation to broaden their network and increase their support as well. Organisations may see some role for being able to co-opt individuals onto the board (or they might just see political complications)
  • kaumatua and whānau advice to staff – creating structures and processes for whānau and kaumatua to directly contribute to the more detailed shaping of work programmes and projects of staff members could help with increasing both the perceived accountability and quality of the work produced by the organisation.

Decision Making Criteria and Frameworks

Being accountable can also encompass the criteria that decisions are made against, in the sense that members expect decisions to be made against values, visions and priorities that are held and shared by the people.

Potential options include:

Decision criteria

It’s pretty routine to consider the fiduciary implications of proposed decisions; is this fiscally responsible and in the best interests of our people. To make the kaupapa visible and taken into account when decisions are being made, organisations could consider;

Deeds/charters – have these legal documents include reference to the kaupapa your organisation holds dear. For example;

  • refer to values and principles in the purpose section of the document
  • in the section that refers to ‘decisions to be made in the best interests of..’ define what ‘best interests’ means according to the values and vision of your organisation/hapū/iwi.

Decision checklists – create templates for board decisions that require every decision to be analysed according to its consistency with vision and values. By way of example, every paper that is presented to the board could have a section that provides explicit reasoning as to why the proposal contained in the paper is consistent with or furthers the values adopted by the organisation.

Decision processes – it’s also pretty routine to take advice from lawyers or accountants on the legal and financial implications of particular decisions. Organisations may want to consider:

  • building a kaupapa advisory process into particular decisions
  • creating a process for mana whenua to comment/direct/veto particular decisions (that fall within their rohe or the like)
  • developing a tribal engagement protocol – when, how and the outcomes of tribal hui to discuss/mandate/direct particular decisions

Planning Processes and Resource Allocation

Planning processes are about priorities for resource allocation and the use of tribal monies is, naturally, a matter that members consider important and particularly illustrative of how accountable the organisation is.

Planning processes typically extend over a number of months, and there is ample opportunity to incorporate processes for whānau and hapū to contribute to the prioritisation of work programmes and the shaping of projects. The logistics will depend on the processes of each organisation.

An International Framework – AA 1000

While these types of participatory processes are fundamentally an internal matter that the Iwi will need to work through, it is possible that an international framework known as the AA 1000 can help.

The AA1000 standards are a tool used by business to be more responsible, and are based on three principles: inclusivity, materiality and responsiveness.

The principles operate by creating an assumption that business should be done in an inclusive way that provides for stakeholders interests and aspirations to be taken into account of business decisions. Once an action reaches a certain level of materiality (ie it has a notable impact on stakeholders), the business should act in an inclusive way and seek to respond to stakeholders interests and aspirations. The standards focus on how businesses conduct stakeholder engagement (to ensure that stakeholders are included), judge what is material enough to engage with stakeholders about, and how the business responds to stakeholders interests. While some may be affronted by the notion that a business model that refers to ‘stakeholders’ could be used by Iwi organisations to be accountable, some organisations may find the systemic approach useful in embedding participatory and accountability processes in the way the organisation operates. More information can be found at:

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