Government must cooperate with Māori about data - Dr Tahu Kukutai

By Bronson Perich
Wena Harawira speaks with Dr Tahu Kukutai

The epic failure of the 2018 census and COVID-19 have raised important questions about data government collection. Dr Tahu Kukutai says Māori need to be involved in how the state collects and handles our data.

“If you want data that works for us, we need to be at the table, co-designing those systems so that they meet our needs," Dr Kukutai says.

It is more critical now, she says than ever, to address the issue of Māori data sovereignty. 

"Māori data sovereignty is really about putting Māori data in Māori hands," she says.

As the government collates data about New Zealand citizens, Dr Kukutai says that it must earn the trust of the public. This is done by giving the governance of that data back to the community.

"Once you start collecting ethnicity data though and are able to sort of identify communities and groups ... then it's really really vital that you have community or Māori governance over the top of that data.

This allows communities to have input as to how their data is used. People are more likely, she says to buy in to data collection if they have a say about its collection and utilisation.

"It gives communities assurance some sort of reassurance that they can trust how they data is being used.

"People won't, you know, participate in the system if they don't trust it."

Ineffective attempts to collect data in the past have meant that government policies were based on incorrect information. 

“Data is king and data driven decision making is important in times of crisis."

While Stats NZ signed a 'mana orite' agreement with Data ILG, the data group for the Iwi Chairs forum, Dr Kukutai says this needs to be duplicated across all government departments. This ensures that power is shared, mana Māori is recognised, and Māori are the architects of their own future.