Hōkai Rangi: Context and background to the development of Ara Poutama Aotearoa Strategy 2019-2024

Dr Paul Hamer
Principal Advisor, Māori Strategy Team, Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Department of Corrections)

Jessica Paul
Senior Advisor, Māori Strategy Team, Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Department of Corrections)

Dr Maraea Hunia
Senior Advisor, Māori Strategy Team, Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Department of Corrections)

Author biographies

Paul Hamer is a Principal Advisor in the Māori Strategy team at Ara Poutama Aotearoa(Department of Corrections). He joined the department in 2017, initially undertaking a stocktake of the department’s activities focused on improving outcomes for Māori. He has a PhD from Monash University, Australia, and is a member of the team who drove the development of Hōkai Rangi.

Jessica Paulis a Senior Advisor in the Māori Strategy team at Ara Poutama Aotearoa(Department of Corrections). She joined the department in 2011 and worked in a variety of roles before moving into the Māori Strategy and Partnerships team as a Senior Adviser, soon after its establishment in 2017. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Criminology from Victoria University of Wellington. Jessica is also a member of the team who drove the development of Hōkai Rangi.

Maraea Huniais a Senior Advisor in the Māori Strategy team at Ara Poutama Aotearoa(Department of Corrections), having joined in 2020. Maraea has a background in education and research, and holds a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington.

Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series on Hōkai Rangi. An article detailing the methods of engagement, data gathering, co-design and development process for Hōkai Rangi will be published in a future edition, along with articles reporting on the progress towards meeting our Hōkai Rangi goals.


This paper places the development of Hōkai Rangi: Ara Poutama Aotearoa Strategy 2019-2024 (Department of Corrections, 2019)into its historical context, noting changes from the late 1980s until the start of the strategy’s development at the end of 2018. Socio-political ebbs and flows have influenced the way successive governments and thus the Department of Corrections have referred and committed to Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi, and to Māori. The department’s development and adoption of its strategies through the years reflected these currents. Claims to, and recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal - together with strong calls for justice sector change - culminated in the development of Hōkai Rangi as the department-wide strategy, with a clear focus on Māori.

Past Māori-focused strategies

The Department of Corrections was founded on 1 October 1995. Prior to this, the management of prisons and probation sat with the Department of Justice. At the time the new department was established, public sector energy and commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi or the Treaty of Waitangi (hereafter “the treaty”[1]) and Māori issues was high. This commitment was driven by notable events that included breakthrough Waitangi Tribunal reports in the mid-1980s, the Lands[2] case (New Zealand Māori Council v Attorney-General, 1987), and the sesquicentenary of the 1840 signing of te Tiriti at Waitangi. In addition, the release of Moana Jackson’s He Whaipaanga Hou in 1988 (Jackson, 1988) and the“Roper Report” in 1989 (Roper & New Zealand Government, 1989) raised awareness of pressing issues for Māori, and called out changes required across the criminal justice sector. In the late 1980s, many departments, “including Conservation, Education, Environment, Health, Inland Revenue, Justice, Labour, Social Welfare, and Women’s Affairs, created specific Māori divisions, units, or secretariats to serve as repositories of expertise and advice on issues relating to Māori affairs” (Boston et al., 1996, p. 150).

The new Department of Corrections took its direction from this trend, beginning the development of a treaty-based strategy. In 1999, it prepared a discussion document called He Whaakinga: Treaty of Waitangi Draft Policy Statement. “He whaakinga” was translated as “an acknowledgement”, which the department considered gave “an appropriate reflection of the contents of this paper” (Department of Corrections, 1999, p. 1).The document, which was widely distributed for comment, announced that the department aimed “to be a role model for other government agencies by encouraging Māori participation and ensuring that it conducts its business in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi” (p. 9).

In 2000, ten hui with Māori communities and six hui with people in six prisons were held to gather their responses to He Whaakinga. A further 101 written submissions were received in response to He Whaakinga from staff, and five submissions from non-staff (Department of Corrections, 2001a, p. 1).

This engagement eventually led to the department’s development of its Treaty of Waitangi Strategic Plan 2001-2003 (TOWSP). This strategy expressed strong commitment to the treaty, stating that the department would provide corrections services “in a way that upholds the Treaty of Waitangi” (Department of Corrections, 2001b, p 4). It set clear and specific targets in areas such as recruitment and staff cultural capability and set out the ways in which progress towards them would be measured. Targets included that:

  • ten percent of psychologists appointed each year would be Māori
  • the proportion of psychologists identifying as Māori would grow from 2% in December 2000 to 8.8% in 2010
  • the overall proportion of staff identifying as Māori would likewise grow from 19.6% to 24.8%

(Department of Corrections, 2001b).

The TOWSP also adopted the kaupapa statement “Kotahi ano te kaupapa; ko te oranga o te iwi” (as has Hōkai Rangi). As the strategy document explained, “an over-riding concern for the wellbeing of our communities” was “[w]oven throughout the korero at every hui and meeting as well as the many written submissions we received about the draft policy statement”. The kaupapa statement was the “most eloquent” expression of that sentiment, and was translated into English as “There is only one purpose (to our work); it is the wellbeing and wellness of the people” (Department of Corrections, 2001b, p. 10).

In 2002, the department sought feedback on the TOWSP. Doing so barely a year into the plan’s existence, and without an evaluation of how its implementation was proceeding, was not ideal. Some unhappiness about this was expressed by those who made submissions (Department of Corrections, 2003a, p. 2). Nevertheless, the department began planning its next Māori-focused strategy, circulating a draft for comment and explaining that:

A full-scale open-ended national consultation process was undertaken in preparation for the original Treaty Strategy. It was neither appropriate nor feasible to undertake another national consultation for the update, as the earlier feedback was comprehensive, of high quality, and is still relevant. (Department of Corrections, 2003a, p. 1)

Nonetheless, a further seven hui took place around the country, and a submissions process produced 38 submissions (Department of Corrections, 2003a). This engagement led to the development of the Māori Strategic Plan 2003-2008 (Department of Corrections, 2003b).

The Māori Strategic Plan 2003-2008 was designed and presented to be more accessible than the TOWSP, which was text heavy, and only the Chief Executive’s foreword was in both languages. The new strategy was less than half the length, and had full text in both te reo Māori and English. It retained the kaupapa statement from the 2001 strategy, but content changes reflected a change in direction.

Significantly, the 2003 strategy no longer stated that corrections services would be provided “in a way that upholds the Treaty of Waitangi” (Department of Corrections, 2001b). Instead, it said that the department would provide corrections services “in a way that has regard to the Treaty of Waitangi” (Department of Corrections, 2003b, p. 7) (emphasis added). This suggested a retreat from the much stronger commitment in the 2001 strategy. The removal of the reference to the treaty in the strategy’s title also reflected this change of approach.

The new strategy had less of an emphasis on increasing the proportion of Māori staff year on year. Targets to be met by 2010 were set for managers, frontline staff, and the overall workforce, but there was no mention of increasing the number of Māori in specialist roles, nor any explanation of whether the previous targets outlined in the TOWSP had been met over the first two years.

It is not clear how or if the effectiveness of the 2003-2008 strategy was evaluated before its replacement with the Māori Strategic Plan 2008-2013 (Department of Corrections, 2008). The 2008 strategy was again fully bilingual, and repeated the kaupapa statement. However, it made no mention of the treaty whatsoever. It was also very high level in its approach: any reference to explicit staffing targets was absent, replaced with a general aspiration to have “high levels of Māori staff” (Department of Corrections, 2008, p. 16). The strategy was terminated before it had run its full course, as the following sections make clear.

Changes in both the political climate and Corrections’ approach

For some time, since the Lands case, the government had been avoiding firm statements of commitment to the treaty in legislation. This reluctance became more general after 2004, as anti-Māori sentiment was stirred by issues such as the foreshore and seabed (Mitchell, 2020) and by the speech about supposed Māori privilege at Ōrewa in January 2004 by Don Brash, the Leader of the Opposition, (Johansson, 2004). The government of the day responded to this by appointing Trevor Mallard as “Co-ordinating Minister, Race Relations”. This Minister was tasked with reviewing government policies and programmes to ensure that they were “targeted on the basis of need not on the basis of race” (Mallard, 2004). References to the treaty by the government diminished, with Prime Minister Helen Clark mentioning the treaty in one in every eight speeches and press releases in 2004, but only one in a hundred in 2005. There was a similar reduction in mentions of the treaty from her ministers, a pattern that continued for many years (Fyers, 2018).

The Department of Corrections also moved in this direction (see Figure 1 with regard to the department’s publications). In 2011, its various strategies and plans were subsumed by a single overarching plan, Creating Lasting Change 2011-2015 (Department of Corrections, 2011). This one simplified strategy had a single measurable target of reducing re-offending by 25% by 2017 (RR25). This was explained in 2016 by Executive Leadership Team member Vince Arbuckle as being “in recognition of the need to provide a much stronger collective focus on achieving specific priority areas including reducing re-offending” (Arbuckle, 2016, p. 17).

From 2011, specialist Māori roles began to be removed from the department. The Chief Executive’s Māori Advisory Group was disbanded, and kaiwhakahaere—the specialist Māori-focused role in probation—was disestablished. Further, a restructure entitled “Unifying Our Efforts” saw the disbanding of the Māori and Pacific policy unit in favour of a generic policy team. These moves were in keeping with broader trends across the public service toward “mainstreaming”, with a generally reduced emphasis on Māori-specific policy and treaty issues, as noted at the time by former Corrections staff member Haami Piripi:

Te Tiriti and the principles of Te Tiriti have lost momentum in the public sector, languishing for recognition in statute and starving for status among ordinary New Zealanders – Pākehā and Māori alike. The appreciation of Te Tiriti has waxed and waned, and it seems that the meeting of Treaty obligations within the public sector has risen and fallen with it. (Piripi, 2011, pp. 240-241)

Waitangi Tribunal 2015-2017

Having a single over-arching strategy meant that the department no longer had a strategic focus on Māori. Under RR25, the disparity between Māori and non-Māori re-offending rates grew (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 45).  This situation was a major driver behind a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 2540) taken in August 2015 by Tom Hemopo “on behalf of himself and his iwi, Ngāti Maniapoto, Rongomaiwahine, and Ngāti Kahungunu” (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 1). This claim was pivotal in the lead up to the development of Hōkai Rangi. It alleged that:

The Crown had failed to make a long-term commitment to bring the number of Māori serving sentences in line with the Māori population generally… [and] had failed to reduce the high rate of Māori re-offending proportionate with non-Māori. Further, Mr Hemopo claimed the Department of Corrections allowed its Māori Strategic Plan 2008–2013 to lapse without replacement, and had not consulted Māori in making this decision… [and] failed to provide measurement of its performance in reducing Māori re-offending. (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 1)

The high-level nature of the Māori Strategic Plan 2008-2013, subsumed by Creating Lasting Change, was discussed during proceedings, with Crown counsel telling the Tribunal that the 2008 strategy “did not have firm targets in respect of re-offending, and the nature of the plan was such that it did not lend itself to being measured for its effectiveness” (Crown Law Office, 2016, pp. 18-19). This submission was based on the evidence of Vince Arbuckle, who had told the Tribunal that “Although the Māori Strategic Plan 2008-2013 provided evidence of a commitment to reducing re-offending amongst Māori, of itself it did not achieve meaningful change” (Arbuckle, 2016, p. 17).

Mention of “Māori” in departmental documentation fell drastically in the years leading up to the Wai 2540 hearing. In 2005, “Māori” was mentioned 337 times in the annual report and 77 times in the Statement of Intent. By 2015, the annual report mentioned “Māori” just 12 times, and the 2015 Statement of Intent mentioned “Māori” only once. The word appeared only seven times in Creating Lasting Change. The Waitangi Tribunal also noted that the word “Māori” appeared only three times in 93 pages of the department’s Four Year Plan 2015 (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 41). This was not to suggest that the department’s commitment to reducing Māori re-offending could be assessed by the number of mentions in strategic documents. Rather, it reflected the lack of specific focus on Māori in the department’s planning since the abandonment of a Māori-specific strategy in 2011.

Such was the lack of focus on Māori that, in August 2015, when claimant counsel requested information from the department on the effectiveness of its rehabilitative programmes for Māori in the lead up to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing, the department declined because it “does not calculate these results separately by ethnicity” (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 32).

The Tribunal released its report, Tū Mai Te Rangi!, in April 2017, finding that the department had breached the treaty principles of active protection and equity. As the Tribunal put it:

If Māori were not significantly over-represented in the corrections system, a generalised approach for all may be defensible. …Subsuming Māori re-offending in an overall target is a model that, with respect, leaves too much to chance. It is our view that the Department needs to specifically target disproportionate rates of Māori re-offending. (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, pp. 41, 47)

Hōkai Rangi’s development, 2018-2019

Tū Mai te Rangi! laid out six recommendations, including that the department work with its Māori Advisory Board “to design and implement a strategy that addresses Māori reoffending specifically” (Waitangi Tribunal, 2017, p. 65). The department responded by establishing the Rautaki Māori (Māori Strategy and Partnerships) team, whose key task was to work with the Māori Advisory Board on the development of the new strategy. The board itself was thereafter renamed Te Poari Hautū Rautaki Māori, or the Māori Leadership Board (the Poari).

The Wai 2540 case was one of several important factors that aligned to bring about optimum conditions for the development of Hōkai Rangi. The incoming government of 2017 was looking for alternative approaches that would better align with its agenda of wellbeing, and was more receptive to the Māori voices that had been calling for systemic change in the criminal justice system for decades. Kelvin Davis sought out – and was appointed to – the role of Corrections Minister, largely due to his motivation to reduce the acute over-representation of Māori in the system. The government soon rejected the idea of building a new 1,500-bed prison at Waikeria (Davis, 2018). The Hāpaitia te Ora Tangata / Safe and Effective Justice workstream was also established, and an advisory group, Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora, was tasked with engaging the public in a conversation about the criminal justice system, and canvassing a range of ideas about how it could be improved (Ministry of Justice, 2018). A criminal justice summit was held in Porirua in August 2018, and its perceived lack of focus on Māori (Stewart, 2018) led to a Hui Māori in Rotorua in April 2019, followed by the publication, Ināia Tonu Nei.

The department put forward a proposal to Minister Davis in November 2018, outlining a process to develop the new Māori-focused strategy recommended by the Tribunal. Rather than await the outcome of the Hāpaitia process, as anticipated, the Minister directed the strategy be completed by May 2019, a much shorter timeframe than had initially been envisaged. Moreover, he also supported it being driven by the voices of Māori caught up in the system. (The actual process of developing Hōkai Rangi will be discussed in a subsequent article in this journal).


This paper has explained the historical background to the development of Hōkai Rangi: Ara Poutama Aotearoa Strategy 2019-2024 (Department of Corrections, 2019). In the late 1980s, the treaty was high on the governmental agenda, but this enthusiasm waned. Successive departmental strategies and plans in the 2000s and beyond reflected governmental trends towards “mainstreaming” and an associated move away from a focus on Māori. But neither a partial strategic focus on Māori nor a mainstreamed approach worked. The over-representation of Māori in the corrections system if anything increased during the application of past strategies.

Renewed calls for changes in the justice sector, underlined by the Waitangi Tribunal’s 2017 report, thus created the most favourable conditions for a strategic focus on Māori since the foundation of the department in 1995. The result was Hōkai Rangi, the first overarching departmental strategy specifically focused on improving outcomes for Māori.


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[1] We have chosen to follow the practice used in the Waitangi Tribunal’s report on He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti, where “the treaty” (not capitalised) refers to both the te reo Māori and English texts together. Where the Māori text specifically is referred to, we use “te Tiriti”.

[2] The Court of Appeal held that, under section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, the Crown needed to safeguard Māori interests prior to any sales of SOE lands.