A Māori advocacy group will be holding "listening hui" across the country to ask individual Māori about the social and environmental challenges they face.

New Zealand Māori Council Auckland district chairman Matthew Tukaki said Māori were suffering in every social indicator, and felt their voices were not being heard.

"We all know the data – Māori are more likely to be incarcerated, we are more likely to be long-term unemployed, take our own lives, have little or no access to credit and therefore unable to afford a house let alone the rent, we are more likely to be homeless.

"If we are going to have a meaningful impact then we need to work together."


At its national hui in July the council decided to establish working groups on a range of social issues including health, housing, climate change and the environment, women's empowerment and rangatahi (youth).

The working groups would be led by experts who would engage Māori in all of the communities across the country, and build up to produce national policy approaches.

Chairman Sir Taihakurei Durie said the direction was getting back to why the council was first established in 1962: "To provide guidance and insights on the challenges our people faced."

"Our step further is not just to provide advice but to ensure that advice comes from the evidence we collect through deepening our engagement with the very smallest of Māori communities in our regions and rural areas right through to our urban populations."

The direction would involve a "listening hui tour", Tukaki said.

"Nobody has asked individual Māori about those issues.

"We will get to as many of our smaller Māori communities as possible, and ask two questions: What is keeping you awake at night? And, how would you like the New Zealand Māori Council to advocate on your behalf?"

Rising sea levels would disproportionately affect Māori communities, often right on the coast.


"Many of our people live on the coast, and with rising seas and king tides some of our marae and urupā are literally collapsing into the sea," Tukaki said.

"On Matakana Island our urupā is right on the edge of a cliff. A couple more king tides and my dad will be below the cliff."

In looking at the high Māori incarceration rate it was not just about the number of people in jail, but constitutional reform, Tukaki said.

"No doubt New Zealand will head into a discussion about forming a republic when the monarch passes away. So instead of just reacting, we want to start those conversations now."

The New Zealand Māori Council was set up in 1962 to advocate for Māori at a national level.

It has made many gains under the Treaty, especially in fisheries, forestry, broadcasting, and in creating "Section 9" of the State Owned Enterprises Act, which forces the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The council has faced leadership issues over the past few years.

Sir Taihakurei was elected chairman over former co-chairman Maanu Paul in 2016, but the decision led to a South Island delegation walking away from the national body.

The High Court last year declared Sir Taihakurei the council's sole chairman.

Tukaki said the New Zealand Māori Council was "fully united" in this new approach.

"The direction received overwhelming endorsement at the July hui.

"We want to use this as an opportunity to put to rest the bones of the past, be respectful of the contributions of those before. The future of the council is unified."