Unlocking opportunities for Māori

Building strong, meaningful and enduring partnerships with, and unlocking opportunities for, Māori is one of the foundations of delivering the infrastructure we need for the future.

Data & Decisions

Talent & Technology

Long-term planning

7 min read

Photography NZ Story

Māori play an important part in many aspects of our infrastructure sector, whether as users, owners, investors or in building infrastructure. In fact, 12% of the Māori workforce is part of the construction industry. In these different roles, Māori bring a depth of knowledge, experience and values that can make our infrastructure better for everyone. But there’s an opportunity to build on this and unlock greater opportunities for Māori.

"Stronger partnerships help to make sure that infrastructure offers the greatest benefit to the community it is there to serve."

Stronger partnership

Taking a partnership approach to infrastructure can ensure Māori values and aspirations are part of a project from the very start. This involves building strong relationships that are bigger than just the work, sharing decision-making and valuing the contribution of all parties. On a project, this could mean, for example, that there is the potential for iwi investment or that iwi are involved earlier in the decision-making process, and much more. Stronger partnerships help to make sure that infrastructure offers the greatest benefit to the community it is there to serve.  

But partnership comes with costs. Iwi face major demands on their time, as multiple government agencies and other organisations seek their input. For partnership to be fair and successful, there’s a need to make sure all parties have the capacity and the capability to be involved on an equal footing.  

Building opportunities

Improving access to infrastructure services, particularly in regions that have been poorly served, can also unlock opportunities for Māori. Māori are slightly more likely to live in the regions and over a third of the Māori economy is part of the primary sector, in industries like farming and forestry. A large proportion of all New Zealand’s marae are also found in rural New Zealand. Improving access to these rural areas can mean improving telecommunication and internet services to offer greater connectivity, transport infrastructure to bring employment opportunities closer and education to contribute to economic opportunity. 

"Māori bring a depth of knowledge, experience and values that can make our infrastructure better for everyone."

There’s scope to increase employment opportunities in the infrastructure sector itself. While many Māori work in construction, there are currently too few paths to professional and decision-making roles in the sector. Solving this can have benefits for everyone, growing the number of people with the skills to plan, design and build the infrastructure we need.  

Because our infrastructure system hasn’t yet fully utilised the value of mātauranga Māori, there’s also potential for much more research on how infrastructure can empower Māori, such as by gathering case studies and building evidence for what works.  

Some of the changes we’ll need to make

There are many ways the infrastructure sector can build partnerships with and unlock opportunities for Māori. The New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy explores some of these changes, including:

  • Building an infrastructure system with the time, resources, knowledge and willingness to partner with Māori.
  • Growing opportunities for Māori to play a greater role in all aspects of our infrastructure system, and support the Māori capability and capacity to be involved in infrastructure projects.
  • Building knowledge and evidence about the role infrastructure can have in supporting Māori aspirations and values.

Tell us what you think. See our privacy policy for more information.