NZ Human Rights Commission - Accessible HTML Document

Human Rights Commission's Manaaki Policy

1. Background

1.1 Manaaki means to support, take care of, or provide hospitality to people. Its literal meaning can be construed as: acknowledging or upholding another’s mana, thereby also demonstrating and improving one’s own mana or status.

1.2 It has been the practice within the Human Rights Commission to draw on tikanga Māori in the protocols used to welcome and farewell visitors, open meetings or events, and on other occasions, through the use of pōwhiri, whakatau, poroporoaki, whakawātea, and the incorporation of karakia, mihi, waiata and other such tikanga. Doing so is a way that the Commission provides manaaki to people that it comes into contact with, and acknowledges the status of tangata whenua and tikanga Māori.

1.3 The purpose of a Manaaki Policy is to provide some clarity around the protocols that are used in the Commission to provide manaaki to people. The policy sets out the principles and processes to be applied when conducting these protocols, including: processes to be used; roles and responsibilities for arranging and leading events; how tikanga Māori is incorporated; and ensuring that protocols reflect the Commission’s values.

Human Rights Commission Values

1.4 The Human Rights Commission’s values include:

1.5 Above all, respect for all people is a value that is fundamental to the work and practices of the Human Rights Commission, and accordingly, the concept of manaaki, caring for people, has a particular significance in all aspects of the Commission’s work and operations.

1.6 Providing manaaki to people arriving and leaving is a responsibility of all, and reflects the values and responsibilities inherent in the whakataukī used by the Commission:

Hūtia te rito o te harakeke. Kei hea te kōmako e kō?
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.

1.7 Respecting and valuing individuality and diversity, as well as freedom of religion and belief, are also key organisational values within the Commission.

1.8 The Commission operates within a secular State and accordingly should not give priority to one religion or belief system over another. This does not mean that religion/beliefs can not be accommodated at all within the Commission’s protocols. Rather, Commission practices should allow for a range of belief systems to be included and expressed. These should be owned by the speaker as their personal beliefs. While people should not be required to actively participate in religious expression, they can be expected not to disrupt or impede activities that may involve religious expression.

1.9 This position also recognises that wairuatanga is an integral part of tikanga Māori, and that if tikanga is to be incorporated into Commission protocols, then aspects of wairuatanga (eg, karakia, hīmene) also need to be provided for. These issues are discussed further at paragraphs 2.8-2.11 below.

Tikanga Māori

Tikanga are tools of thought and understanding. They are packages of ideas which help to organise behaviour and provide some predictability in how certain activities are carried out. They provide templates and frameworks to guide our actions and help steer us through some huge gatherings of people and some tense moments in our ceremonial life. They help us to differentiate between right and wrong in everything we do and in all of the activities that we engage in. There is a right and proper way to conduct one’s self.[1]

1.10 Incorporating tikanga Māori into its protocols is a way for the Commission to put into practice its stated core values, namely:

The Commission values and respects, in its work and its ways of working, the place of Tangata Whenua in Aotearoa / New Zealand … [and] the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of the nation.

1.11 Using tikanga in the Commission is a way in which the Commission recognises the importance of tikanga both as an expression of Māori identity and as something special to all people of New Zealand.

1.12 Practising tikanga such as pōwhiri or whakatau is a way of acknowledging and showing manaaki to visitors to the Commission. The impact of receiving a pōwhiri/whakatau, particularly for overseas visitors, and the added dimension that this brings to a visit, has been expressed time and again by appreciative visitors. It is also a way of integrating the use of te reo Māori into the workplace, assisting the Commission to work towards greater responsiveness in te reo, and towards the Action Plan goal of a truly bilingual nation by the year 2040.

1.13 By focussing on the skills, knowledge and relationships the Commission has to provide manaaki, the “templates and frameworks to guide our actions” can be developed. The inclusion of te reo and tikanga competencies in performance management plans will help the Commission build both capacity and capability and strengthen leadership in these areas. This will help to ensure that those who desire to do so are supported to lead events, expanding from past practice where this has often been left to Māori staff.

1.14 Drawing on tikanga Māori as “templates and frameworks to guide our actions”, the Commission can develop protocols that reflect both the unique place and tikanga of tangata whenua as well as the distinct character and values of the Commission, and the human rights kaupapa that it espouses.


1.15 While tikanga may be described as the principles, frameworks or “tools of thought and understanding” that are the basis of Māori protocols, the particular procedures to be used may vary according to the kawa or local custom of each iwi.

1.16 The Commission has relationships with each of the mana whenua iwi within whose rohe (region) offices are located. Those iwi are: Ngāti Whātua in central Auckland; the iwi represented by the Wellington Tenths Trust in Wellington; and Kai Tahu in Christchurch. The kawa of each of those iwi provide the benchmark for how tikanga are applied in the respective offices.

1.17 The Manaaki Policy has been developed in consultation with tangata whenua, and any revision of Commission protocols should also involve engagement with them to ensure that these align with their kawa. During the development of the Manaaki Policy, tangata whenua representatives met with Commission staff in each office to discuss their kawa, and their expectations as to how these would be reflected in the Commission’s protocols. The processes set out in the Manaaki Policy reflect this guidance. As discussed further below (paras 2.5-6), protocols on formal occasions such as pōwhiri will adhere closely to the kawa of tangata whenua and such events should also involve close liaison with them. On less formal occasions, the tikanga elements that have been drawn upon in the Manaaki Policy may be adapted and more flexibly applied.

2. Human Rights Commission Protocols

Key Principles / Elements

2.1 Drawing on tikanga Māori, and applying and balancing the concept of manaaki and other Human Rights Commission values, means that there are a number of elements of tikanga that should normally always be included in Commission protocols (namely, karakia, mihi, waiata, harirū, kai), but flexibility in how they might be applied in particular circumstances.

2.2 Their application will be governed at all times by the overarching principles of manaaki, respect (for tangata whenua and their tikanga; for all people; and for human rights) and other Human Rights Commission values.

The principles to be applied when organising, conducting or participating in Commission protocols are:

  • Manaaki – caring for people by acknowledging their arrival, welcoming and looking after them, and respecting their inherent dignity – ie, te tapu o te tangata
  • Respecting tangata whenua by properly acknowledging and caring for visitors within their rohe/area in line with their tikanga / kawa.
  • Respect for other Human Rights Commission values – including respect for human rights, respecting all people and their diversity, enabling self expression, and promoting personal responsibility.

Formality / Flexibility

2.3 The degree of formality attached to the protocols involved in providing manaaki to people, depends on the nature of the occasion and the skills, knowledge and relationships available. Visitors to the office, including service people or those who arrive for a brief meeting, will receive manaaki that is less formal than welcoming the arrival of overseas visitors or a new Commissioner.

2.4 On less formal occasions (such as whakatau) there will be greater scope for flexibility and variation in how these are carried out. That is, while the process will be based on the kawa of tangata whenua and include certain key elements (such as karakia, mihi, waiata… etc), on an informal occasion these may find expression in a variety of different ways – for example, reflecting different languages, cultures, religions or beliefs.

2.5 The most formal occasion will be a pōwhiri which will adhere strictly to the kawa of the tangata whenua, who may specify whether the pōwhiri should be carried out on a marae, or how it may be adapted to take place in the office environment. The Commission may also be involved in poroporoaki which may have a similar level of formality. Pōwhiri on a marae will be led by tangata whenua and will follow their practice. In some cases, arrangements made with tangata whenua may provide for pōwhiri to take place in the office, with a degree of flexibility in terms of process and roles, for example, roles according to gender and use of different languages. These arrangements and processes will vary slightly from office to office and according to the stipulations of the relevant iwi. Engagement with tangata whenua should be undertaken when organising pōwhiri within an office.

2.6 In discussions with tangata whenua during the development of the Manaaki Policy, tangata whenua representatives outlined the processes involved in their kawa, as well as examples of how they adopt pōwhiri processes in an office setting that could be used in various circumstances to balance the application of tikanga alongside gender and language considerations and manaaki. One kaumātua spoke about his practice of sitting level with other people and then shifting his seat slightly forward at the last minute before standing up to speak – in this way, upholding the kawa while being practical and inclusive, enabling women to sit on the front row. Another example is where, once the whaikōrero from the paepae are completed, a karakia is given to conclude the most formal part of the pōwhiri. This enables other speeches to take place (by men or women and in languages other than te reo Māori) and can be seamless enough so that the other speeches flow smoothly on from the whaikōrero. A final example is the practice of tangata whenua in recognising the status of any female leaders, and allowing them speaking roles. This has then been referred to in the Kaikōrero’s speech, so that all participants in the pōwhiri understand the arrangement.

Process / Content

2.7 A distinction between process and content may be made: whereas the process used draws on the protocols of tangata whenua and is relatively fixed, a degree of flexibility can allow for the content to reflect the views and beliefs of those involved and the circumstances and kaupapa of the day.

2.8 In relation to karakia for example, the Commission’s process, in drawing on the tikanga of tangata whenua, provides for karakia as one of the key elements to be included in protocols. The content may vary depending on the individual(s) involved and the nature and formality of the occasion, and could include, for example, traditional karakia, religious prayer, or “non-religious” reflections.

Religious Expression

2.9 The distinction between Commission ownership of the process, and personal ownership of the expression or content, emerged in the discussions on the place of religion in the Commission, as an important distinction in terms of whether or not people felt comfortable participating in an activity that may involve religious expression.

2.10 Ensuring that protocols are open and inclusive of a range of beliefs, and also being clear that expressions of particular religious or other beliefs are the views of the individual speaker (and not necessarily those of the entire group), were seen as important in ensuring that freedom of religion and belief are upheld.

2.11 Making this distinction clear also needs to be a natural and authentic process. Some possible ways of doing this could include:

Personal Responsibility

2.12 So, while the adoption of a process that reflects the Commission’s commitment to respecting tangata whenua and its other values is an organisational responsibility, the content and execution will depend largely on those involved and the nature of the occasion. Accordingly, the individuals organising and performing roles on such occasions have a degree of discretion as to how these are carried out, and also have a personal responsibility for, and ownership of, the content.

2.13 Part of this responsibility is ensuring that the principles of manaaki, respect etc are adhered to. If this is not done, or if staff have concerns, they should raise these with the person concerned and/or responsible managers.

Processes, roles and responsibilities

2.14 The Manaaki Policy outlines the steps to be followed when welcomes or farewells are held in each office. Using these steps as the basis, the organiser(s) of events can adapt these as necessary to suit the requirements of the day, consistent with the overarching principles. Table 1 below also provides guidance on how the elements of the process can be applied in different circumstances.

2.15 These steps can also be adapted as required to suit other occasions, such as:

2.16 Providing manaaki to people arriving and leaving is a responsibility of all. Specific responsibilities for arranging and conducting protocols, such as whakatau, lie with the hosting manager and team members. Ahi Kaa and Uepu Māori will be available if requested to provide support if required.

2.17 Responsibility for organising events includes:

2.18 Event organisers have overall responsibility for ensuring that the process chosen is appropriate and is communicated to all participants, consulting with Kaiwhakarite, other staff/Commissioners, tangata whenua and manuhiri as appropriate.

2.19 Visitors should be adequately briefed. This briefing should outline the basic process and its purpose; the inclusion of karakia and that expressions of belief are those of the individual speaking. Elements of the process (eg, speeches) that will be in te reo Māori should also be outlined, so that the visitors have an idea of what is happening, even if they do not understand the language. It is suggested that speakers provide a general summary in English of what they have said in te reo, as a way of being inclusive. However, this will not always be the case, particularly in more formal settings. Arranging for a te reo Māori speaker to sit with guests and provide a simultaneous translation, is another way to ensure that they are comfortable and informed throughout proceedings.

2.20 Event organisers should also arrange who is to speak and perform other roles. For whakatau and other similar occasions, these roles may be filled by any staff member, without restriction by reason of gender or position in the organisation. All staff are encouraged to participate.

2.21 If the floor is opened for people to speak, all those who wish to do so should be given the opportunity, as far as possible, before the floor is closed. As timing / practical considerations may limit the number of speakers, those who particularly wish to speak, should advise the organiser in advance if possible.

2.22 On very formal occasions such as pōwhiri, engagement with tangata whenua should be undertaken to establish how the occasion will be organised, whether and in what roles tangata whenua will participate, and/or any other restrictions or stipulations as to who may perform certain roles (such as kaikaranga or kaiwhaikōrero).

2.23 Waiata following the speeches express the group’s support for that speaker. Therefore the waiata should ideally be well known by staff and should encapsulate messages / principles that are collectively subscribed to. Each office should collectively agree to the core list of waiata they will call upon. Waiata should be appropriate to the speaker and the message conveyed in their speech where possible. Individual speakers may also specify the waiata to follow their kōrero. In such instances, their chosen waiata reflects their personal expression in the same way that the content of their speech is their individual choice of expression.

2.24 Hīmene are a particular kind of waiata, often used following a karakia in support of the messages and purpose of the karakia. As with karakia, hīmene have a spiritual component. Hīmene are not generally used in everyday Commission protocols, but do arise from time to time on more formal occasions, when the kawa of tangata whenua is more closely adhered to.

Table 1: Key Elements in HRC Protocols

Outline / Brief Explanation

Variations in HRC Protocols


Karakia are incantations that generally acknowledge a spiritual element. They serve to settle people’s thoughts, and prepare the way for the kaupapa of the day, opening the way for people to properly proceed.

Traditional karakia usually invoke an atua or spiritual deity or element. With the advent of Christianity to New Zealand, many iwi and hapu adopted, and continue to use, Christian karakia.

Karakia are not necessarily Christian prayers, although many hapu and iwi do use Christian karakia. There are numerous “non-denominational” alternatives, including traditional incantations that refer to peace, nature, the earth, sky, and other elements or principles. There are also whakataukī, tauparapara and waiata that may be suitable. In some situations, people might choose to offer some thoughts / a reflection to commence a welcome / meeting.


Mihi provide acknowledgement and welcome, and help to make links between those present. They can help to make introductions and connections amongst participants, and to explain the reason for the gathering.

They generally include acknowledgment of:

- spiritual elements / a Creator / environmental elements

- those who have passed on (particularly recent deaths)

- visitors

- those who have contributed to the day

- all those who are present

- the reason for the gathering.

They are also an opportunity to acknowledge the tangata whenua into whose rohe the person is being welcomed, and the icons of that area.

On more formal occasions, it may be appropriate for a kaikōrero to speak in te reo Māori, following the more traditional, formal content and structure.

Informal mihi on other occasions might include a simple greeting in te reo, and be otherwise conducted in English or another language.


These support the speaker, who has spoken on the group’s behalf, and reinforce their messages. A waiata should follow each mihi, and should begin immediately upon its conclusion. The choice of waiata should be appropriate to the particular circumstances.

Waiata can emphasise the kaupapa of the mihi, the occasion, the identity of the individual speaker or the group / organisation.

For expediency in some circumstances, it may be appropriate to specify that there will be one waiata at the conclusion of a series of mihi to support them all.


An important part of acknowledging and welcoming the person, and the joining of the visiting and host groups.

At this stage of the process, the hosts form a line and the visitors proceed along it, greeting them with a hongi (pressing noses once or twice), handshake and/or kiss.

A hongi is the sharing of the breath of life, and its origins extend to the very creation of human beings. For some people it is a very intimate act, not to be shared with just anyone.

Some people may be uncomfortable with such close contact, in which case a handshake, or other form of acknowledgement may be appropriate.

In informal situations, self introductions around the group (whakawhanaungatanga) may be appropriate.


An important part of providing manaaki and joining the visitors and hosts. Kai also acts to conclude the formalities of the occasion, freeing things up for the kaupapa of the day.



God, supernatural being, guardian, ancestor with continuing influence

Haka pōwhiri

Welcome haka - ceremonial dance performed to welcome visitors.


Feast, banquet


To shake hands




To press noses in greeting


Tribe, people


Food, meal, to eat


Person who recites the karakia

KaikarangaPerson who performs the karanga




Incantation, prayer, grace, blessing, service, church service, ritual chant, chant


Ceremonial call of welcome


Topic, policy, matter for discussion, plan, scheme, proposal, agenda, subject, programme, theme


Ceremonial rituals


Speak, say, speech


To support, take care of, give hospitality to, protect, look out for. Support, hospitality.

Mana whenua

Tribe with territorial authority of an area

Mihi / Mihimihi

Speech of greeting, acknowledgement, tribute. To greet, pay tribute, acknowledge, thank.

Mihi whakatau

Speech of greeting, speech acknowledging those present at a gathering, official welcome speech.


Orators' bench, speakers of the tangata whenua




To welcome, welcoming ceremony


Language, dialect


District, region, area

Tangata whenua

Local people, hosts, people of the land


Correct procedure, custom, method, rule, way, practice


Song, to sing


Spirituality (from ‘wairua’, meaning spirit, soul)


Formal speechmaking, oratory


To welcome, a welcome


Proverb, saying, aphorism


To clear, free


Getting to know one another

Further information and resources

Te Aka Māori Online Dictionary, at:

Ngata Māori Dictionary Online, at


Other useful resources (available from HRC Library) include:

Mead, H. M., (2003), Tikanga Māori: Living by Māori Values, Wellington: Huia Publishers.

Apiata-Wade, M., & Te Rūnanga o NZDWU ed. (2006), An introductory guide to understanding Māori, Hamilton: NZ Dairy Workers Union.

Tauroa, H. and P., (1987), Te Marae: A guide go customs and protocols, Auckland: Heinemann Reed.

[1] Mead, H. M. 2003. Tikanga Maori – Living by Maori Values. Wellington: Huia Publishers. 12