Police pulled their guns on people nearly 120 times in two years in the Bay of Plenty with two-thirds of all incidents involving Māori.
Ten children, one as young as 13, had firearms presented to them over the same timeframe.
A political party co-leader claims New Zealand police refuse "to acknowledge systemic racism" while an iwi chief executive says the data "scares" him.
One of the district's top cops says there has "definitely" been an increase in the willingness of people to use firearms against police and others but that work had started to improve outcomes for Māori and reduce victimisation.
The data, released under the Official Information Act, showed between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, there were 114 firearm presentations and two discharges.
The data was drawn from Police Tactical Options Reports (TORs) and there can be multiple TOR events relating to the same incident. For example, if two officers pull their guns on the same person during the same incident, that would be two TOR events.
Seventy-seven of the 114 presentations involved Māori with the next highest ethnicity, European, at 27. There were also six incidents involving Pacific peoples, three Asian and one other/unknown.
The data was drawn from Police Tactical Options Reports which do not include Armed Offender Squad or Special Tactics Group firearm presentations. Tactical options are defined as the reportable use of force by one officer against one individual.
Te Pāti Māori (the Māori Party) justice spokesman and co-leader Rawiri Waititi asked at what point did unconscious bias become conscious bias.
"This trend will only continue to get worse until the police admit they have an issue with systemic racism instead of continuing to try and address unconscious bias.
"They are the only ministry that refuses to acknowledge systemic racism. They have been running programmes to address unconscious bias for years."
Waititi said, in his opinion, police had profiled and targeted tangata whenua for as long as they had existed.
He said the problem was police were given "an incredible" amount of freedom to make decisions at their discretion.
Waititi did not believe police officers should be armed because in his view they were "actively targeting Māori".
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley was in favour of arming police - a view he believed few iwi leaders shared - because it was a dangerous and challenging job but the data raised questions.
"I would need to feel comfortable that the police tactical decisions are not predicated on race but the data infer this and infers it locally," Stanley said.
"I know a lot of cops. They are hard-working, bloody good Kiwis. There's no doubt in my mind,'' he said.
"I don't want to be all emotional about [the data] but it does not look good."
Stanley said the data was "very sobering", that it "scares" him and that it needed to be unpacked and explained as to why it was happening.
"Take into account all of the racist assumptions that are made on it – they are exactly that, just assumptions – and the data does not look good.
"This isn't a fair and wholesome manner, it's not an emotional matter but it needs to be unpacked and told why it's happening."
Bay of Plenty police acting district commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said Māori were over-represented in the criminal justice system as both offenders and victims.
"Sadly, this is also reflected in the Tactical Options reporting each year," he said. "We know that crime is a symptom of social deprivation.
"Through close working partnerships with iwi and local service providers, police are committed to improving outcomes for Māori and reducing victimisation, offending, road fatalities, and injuries."
Ideally, officers would never need to resort to tactical options but it was the reality when people were at risk, Paxton said.
"Bay of Plenty Police, like other districts in New Zealand, is definitely seeing an increase in the willingness of people to use firearms towards others and towards police.
"This is absolutely a concern and we need to ensure our people are equipped to respond safely in this environment."
He said the policing environment "is changing" and they were seeing more people, including younger people, willing to use force against them.
When an officer chose to use force in defence of the public or themselves, their decision was based on their assessment of the threat, the exposure to harm, the necessity to act and the best response considering all those factors, Paxton said.
"Anyone who presents an actual or perceived risk to the safety of others or police staff will be dealt with in a proportionate manner.
"Police's first option is always de-escalation without using further tactical options.
"It's also important to note that in the midst of a fast-moving situation a person's age may not be immediately apparent, and someone under 18 can still pose a legitimate risk to public safety and to the safety of officers."
The data revealed that 20 firearms were also presented by police to minors between 2015 and 2021.
Three of those incidents took place in 2020 when the offenders were aged 13, 14 and 17-years-old. Two were Māori, one European but the ethnicity and ages of the others were not specified.
Two had threatened members of the public and/or police with firearms later identified as imitations. The third threatened police staff with a knife.
All incidents were resolved without police firearms being discharged.
Meanwhile, also in 2020, there were two instances when a firearm was discharged and both involved Māori.
One of the discharges related to the police shooting of Anthony Fane on February 13, 2020, on State Highway 2.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority cleared police of any wrongdoing.
The other incident was separate and the discharge missed the subject, Paxton said.
Firearm uses are reported by the highest mode of deployment for TOR events, meaning while a firearm may have been presented before being discharged, this would only be counted as a discharge.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said it was pleasing that police had not, for the majority, been forced to use firearms.
"It'd be nicer if they weren't faced with situations where they have to withdraw them but it's not the reality at the moment."
Cahill said the number of presentations reflected the "significant issue" of people arming themselves with firearms and other dangerous weapons.
"The prevalence of firearms and other weapons has increased greatly and that's what's leading to the deployment of firearms for officers.
"I think what is a bit concerning is that outside of the high-level gang members, it seems to be more the norm for other offenders to carry firearms as well.
"You seem to see, to a degree, young people replicating that behaviour even though they might be with imitation firearms."
Asked about the number of incidents involving Māori, Cahill said police only presented firearms when warranted.
"The reality is police have to deal with what's in front of them. They have no choice about whether that person is Māori, Pasifika, European or Asian, it's who they have to deal with."
Cahill said Māori were over-represented in almost every statistic in the justice system, however, he asked if that was a police issue or a societal issue.
Police Minister Poto Williams said it was clear Māori and Pacific communities were disproportionately represented which was why police were working on the Understanding Policing Delivery research programme.
"This is taking an evidence-based approach to identify whether, where and, to what extent, bias exists at a system-level in police's operating environment."
"Police have developed Te Huringa o Te Tai strategy, which has been developed in partnership with iwi Māori to address concerns and to reduce victimisation, offending, and injuries among police.
"It's also why it's important that our police represent the communities that they serve."
Williams said there had been a focus on recruiting Māori, Pasifika, and Asian police.
The figures provided are provisional but are the "most accurate available" at the time of analysis and may not be consistent with future reports, according to police.