Tallying tribes: Waikato-Tainui in the census and iwi register.

AuthorWalling, Julie


In the last decade iwi have begun to shift their focus from challenging the state to developing internal capacity, in so doing, the need for accurate, relevant data on iwi populations has been amplified. Using Waikato-Tainui as a case study, we examine the potential gaps between the statistical needs of iwi in a post-settlement context and the official data available to them. Our analysis uses two time points: 1996, shortly after the raupatu settlement, and 2006, the most recent census. Comparing data from the Waikato-Tainui register with those from the 1996 and 2006 censuses, we find significant variation in the parameters and characteristics of Waikato-Tainui in official statistics versus the tribe's own register. We discuss some of the implications of these gaps and suggest ways in which the statistical needs of iwi could be better met. Our key recommendation is that the existing iwi question in the census be expanded to prompt for tribal registration status. This change would better align official data with the concept of membership used by iwi authorities and yield data that are more relevant for their policy and planning needs.


Since the early 1990s, iwi have made significant headway in their demands to be compensated for historical grievances relating to the alienation of land and other resources. The Waitangi Tribunal, a statutory body established in 1975 to make recommendations to the Government relating to breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, has heard the majority of these claims. (2) Since 1989, 23 settlements have been successfully negotiated, with numerous other claims in the process of being heard or settled (Office of Treaty Settlements 2008). (3) Rather than proceed through the Waitangi Tribunal, some iwi, notably Waikato-Tainui, have opted to pursue negotiations with the Crown directly.

Regardless of the route taken, the settlement process has endowed iwi with significant resources in the form of natural resources (e.g. land, waterways, fisheries) and monetary compensation. As part of the process, a raft of iwi organisations have emerged as state-recognised actors to receive and distribute settlement monies and assume internal governance and policy-making functions. Post-settlement (4) iwi such as Waikato-Tainui are now in a position to play an important role in improving the wellbeing of their members, both through internal capacity building and by influencing external policy formulation and service delivery. In order to do so effectively, however, iwi decision-makers need access to relevant and accurate information about their members. Without a reliable empirical knowledge base, decision-making runs the risk of being based on anecdote and misplaced judgement. In a post-settlement context we ask: How well placed are official statistics to meet the current and future needs of iwi?

Using Waikato-Tainui as a case study, we compare aggregate data from the tribe's own administrative register with data on Waikato-Tainui from the 1996 and 2006 censuses. Most, if not all, iwi organisations have established their own iwi registers of enrolled members, either as a precursor to, or a condition of, settlement. The Waikato-Tainui register was initially created in the 1950s as an electoral register managed by the Tainui Maori Trust Board. The board's successor, the Waikato Raupatu Lands Trust, is obligated to maintain the register as a requirement of the 1995 settlement with the Crown for the wrongful confiscation (raupatu) of tribal lands in the 1860s. (5) Iwi registers have also been created to meet the requirements of the Maori Fisheries Act 2004, which requires that registered population numbers be taken into account when determining the settlement quantum. (6)

By comparing Waikato-Tainui register data with data from the census, our goal is to illustrate the potential gaps between the statistical needs of iwi in a post-settlement context, and the official data available to them. In so doing we pay particular attention to the ways in which iwi affiliation is conceptualised, measured and defined in the census, and how these features of tallying the tribe may be at odds with the criteria and processes used by iwi themselves. As the nation's most comprehensive statistical stocktake, the five-yearly census remains the key source of information about iwi. A question on iwi affiliation was introduced in the 1991 census, in accordance with the Runanga Iwi Act 1990, after a hiatus of almost a century. In addition to the census, some government departments (e.g. Ministry of Education) have introduced national or regional strategies to collect iwi data in an effort to be more responsive to the needs of iwi organisations and service providers. (7)

Efforts by government agencies to meet the statistical needs of iwi have been generally well received, but there are several potential shortcomings of relying solely on official data. One relates to the potential mismatch between how iwi affiliation is conceptualised in official statistics and the criteria employed by iwi themselves. As we discuss in more detail, the conceptual basis of iwi affiliation in official statistics is through self-identification, whereas most iwi registers define membership through a whakapapa (genealogical) link to constituent hapu (clans) and/or marae (family groupings). This conceptual disconnect is problematic in that it may yield populations of different sizes and characteristics. For iwi organisations, their primary and often statutory obligation is to their enrolled members, and so there is a compelling incentive for them to have data that reasonably reflect the characteristics, experiences and needs of their affiliates. The need for data that are representative of iwi register populations also extends to external agencies tasked with servicing them.

Although our analysis focuses exclusively on Waikato-Tainui, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of iwi classification and enumeration in general. With some notable exceptions (Gould 1996, 2005, Lowe 1989) this is an area that has been largely neglected, in part because research and policy tend to be concerned with the size and characteristics of Maori as an ethnic group (Kukutai 2004). As iwi, along with Maori incorporations and urban Maori authorities, have become better placed to engage the economic, social and cultural development of their communities (Hui Taumata 2005), there is a growing need for a closer examination of iwi data.

We start by briefly examining the ways in which iwi data have been collected in the census. We then focus on Waikato-Tainui, and how the conceptualisation and measurement of Waikato-Tainui in the census aligns with the Waikato-Tainui register population. Our analysis uses data from two time points, 1996 and 2006, to approximate the pre- and post-settlement period. We conclude with a discussion of implications and suggest some potential strategies for better aligning official data with iwi needs.


The keen interest that many iwi have in official data is, in some ways, a departure from a history of "tallying tribes" that was coloured by Maori resistance or non-participation, and largely geared towards the interests of the state (Kukutai forthcoming). To fully appreciate the shift that has occurred in recent decades, a brief review of tribal enumeration is instructive.

The collection of data on iwi pre-dates official statistics. In the decades following the Treaty, missionaries conducted various "censuses" of Maori, often along iwi lines, for their own administrative and proselytising purposes. Such data frequently included the number baptised, as well as distinguishing men, women and children (Kukutai et al. 2002). Missionaries encountered many obstacles in their attempts to enumerate Maori, and so their efforts are best seen as "guesstimates" rather than a census in the modern sense. The 1858 census was the first official effort to conduct a systematic count of Maori, but another 16 years passed before a second Maori census was taken. From 1874 data were collected on "principal tribes", with published data often disaggregated by "sub-tribes" (hapu) and "locality" (kainga). The allocation of individuals to a single principal tribe was intended to simplify enumeration by linking people to a specific place, but overlooked the affiliations that most Maori had to a number of hapu and iwi.

Regional and temporal variation in the accuracy and completeness of iwi data arose from factors that included resistance by communities, the competence and familiarity of the sub-enumerators with their regions and communities, and physical accessibility (Kukutai et al. 2002, Lowe 1989). Opposition to census-taking was especially marked in areas where there was broad support for the Maori King Movement (e.g. Waikato and the King Country, see Lowe 1989), and where details of livestock and cultivations were sought. Until the turn of the century the Crown had a strong interest in monitoring iwi, particularly those that openly challenged its authority. The impetus to monitor iwi and hapu declined, however, as their structures were severely weakened through depopulation and land alienation--either through raupatu (like Waikato) or the workings of the Native (later Maori) Land Court. The collection of iwi data ceased after the 1901 census, though Maori continued to be separately enumerated from the rest of the population up until 1951, after which time officials considered that "special measures" were no longer required (Census and Statistics Department 1952). (8)

The rapid post-World War II urbanisation of Maori had major demographic impacts on Maori as a population (Pool 199l), and on iwi and hapu (Barcham 1998). From 1945 substantial numbers of Maori migrated from their rohe (traditional tribal territory) into cities and towns, seeking employment in the post-war boom, assisted by government policies of relocation...

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