Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Governance

By Dr Troy Coyle, HERA CEO

In the recent reforms of vocational education, the Education and Training Act 2020 was amended with a reference (Section 4): “The purpose of this Act is to establish and regulate an education system that… honours Te Tiriti Waitangi and supports Māori-Crown relationships”. This is the first piece of legislation that references requirements relating to Te Tiriti in its entirety (versus the principles) and compels “honouring” it.

In my role as the founding chair of the Interim Establishment Board of Hanga Aro Rau, the Workforce Development Council (WDC) for Manufacturing, Engineering and Logistics, this amendment presented a formidable challenge. The challenge was to find guidance on what best-practice honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi would look like in governance, and was compounded by the fact that I (like many of the interim establishment board members) was nowhere near sufficiently educated on Te Tiriti o Waitangi to meaningfully understand how to honour it.

As a result, the WDCs have gone on a significant journey to address those challenges. Perhaps, through their Orders in Council, WDCs could be seen as setting a precedent for what a governance model of honouring Te Tiriti might look like. Although each WDC has made its own interpretation, Hanga Aro Rau has implemented the following initiatives as practical ways to implement this legal obligation to honour Te Tiriti in its governance:

  • establishment of co-chairs, one being whakapapa Māori, with a commitment to a shared kaupapa;
  • as far as practical at least equal representation of Māori and non-Māori on the Board;
  • at least one member must be nominated by Māori employers in the specified industries (a requirement of the Act);
  • the industry stakeholder group chair must have sufficient knowledge, skill or experience in te ao Māori (including te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori);
  • enough members with skills in te ao Māori, including te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori, to ensure the Council has proper regard for Māori perspectives in performing its functions;
  • a deep understanding, and commitment to the principles, of Te Tiriti o Waitangi;
  • a requirement to consult with persons or bodies that represent the interest of Māori before issuing a statement of strategic intent.

Engineering NZ figures from 2016 showed that 13% of engineers were women, 6% Māori, and only 2% Pasifika. I suggest we reflect on our prevailing governance models and decide if there are potential changes that may assist with improving those numbers in line with our legal commitments under Te Tiriti. I also wonder if there are more like me in the profession who need training and a better understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. If so, I hope there is room to collaborate as our collective knowledge grows and we apply what we learn to our industries and organisations.

Dr Troy Coyle brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation management across a range of industries including materials science, medical radiation physics, biotechnology, sustainable building products, renewable energy and steel. She is a scientist with a PhD (University of NSW) with training in journalism and communications.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.