Māori Research in the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities NSC

Project Information

Tane Whakapiripiri (the trees of Tane bound together) is the wharenui (meeting house) as the gatherer and connector of people. It is the metaphor which frames the Building Better Homes Towns and Cities National Science Challenge.  It signals that Challenge research will bring together researchers to achieve the vision of good homes, places, and communities in which people can live and work together. The framework reflects the National Science Challenge principle of purposeful collaboration.

The Tane Whakapiripiri framework acknowledges and values the distinctive perspectives of Western science and Matāuranga Māori and provides mechanisms and space for the different world views to inform each other and enhance outcomes. The framework encourages collaboration and partnership, but also recognises the distinction between these world views. The distinction between mana whenua and manuhiri recognises the unique status of Māori as indigenous to Aotearoa, and iwi, hapū and whānau as holding mana whenua within their rohe.

By housing the Challenge in the Tane Whakapiripiri framework we will, over the course of the Challenge, build a cohort of researchers who have the skills and capabilities to work within both Matāuranga Māori and Western science paradigms and to effectively collaborate across disciplines.

Kāinga Tahi Kāinga Rua Strategic Research Area – Transformation through kaupapa Māori research 

The Kāinga Tahi Kāinga Rua Strategic Research Area recognises the dual and complex nature of Māori identities and the many communities we build our lives in. Simply all Māori by whakapapa originate from a specific place, rohe, marae, kāinga but are more likely now to live at their Kāinga Rua in a city. Many Māori may consider their Kāinga Tahi being the city now and their Kāinga Rua their marae.

The research area will deliver solutions for how we collaboratively finance, design, and build developments, with buy-in from multiple stakeholders, to overcome discriminatory policy and legislative barriers, to actively support Māori aspirations for long-term, affordable, and healthy housing that meets the needs of their communities.

Research Project: Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua

Kāinga Tahi, Kāinga Rua is made up of three distinct research whenu. Within each whenu are discrete kaupapa Māori research projects. All whenu are linked by the ahu of ako and wairua, which is a kaupapa Māori knowledge production and sharing platform that drives the research to make a highly-visible and disruptive contribution. This is achieved through generating knowledge and sharing and connecting communities of interest with the new evidence and knowledge produced. This project was developed through co-creation and collaboration activities.

Whenu 1: Supporting hauora through successful Māori housing initiatives  

To further understand, from the perspective of whānau, the nexus between poverty, housing, and well-being for diverse Māori communities and to examine solutions that can support transformational hauora outcomes.

Whenu 2: Ngā Kaihanga, Ngā Noho, Ngā Tangata: Te Ōhanga o te Whare Māori: Economic solutions to support Māori housing

To develop a suite of economic and financial solutions for diverse whānau that address issues of life-time renting and home ownership. Explore the tensions between commercial return of assets, social housing for iwi and enhanced hauora outcomes.

Whenu 3: Growing papakāinga into the future

To examine a wide range of papakāinga developments to understand what is innovative and propose ways forward for the future of papakāinga housing that account for kāinga tahi, kāinga rua.

Contact: BBHTC Director Māori Dr Jessica Hutchings, e-mail

Research Project: Te Manaaki o te Marae: The role of marae in the Tāmaki Māori housing crisis

In the winter of 2016, Te Puea Memorial Marae initiated a marae-based kaupapa Māori response, opening their doors to vulnerable whānau seeking emergency housing. In the legacy of Te Puea Herangi, the marae answered the call of homeless whānau in Tāmaki, and in doing so completely disrupted the Auckland housing narrative by making visible and naming the ‘crisis’. More than this, Te Puea Memorial Marae demonstrated that marae can be an integral part of urban housing solutions.

The overarching research question is: How can marae be strengthened to manaaki tāngata and assist in addressing whānau aspirations and needs for long-term, affordable, and healthy housing? While the focus of this research project is the role of marae in providing emergency housing, this is only one dimension of te manaaki o te marae. The broader research context concerns marae-led housing interventions premised on the ability of marae to extend their cultural reach into communities. The transformational potential of marae for Māori is heightened as the Auckland housing crisis continues to escalate, and the number of Māori living in the region is expected to grow. Marae have always been the epicentres of our whānau, hapu, iwi, and communities. This research will strengthen marae (mana whenua, taura here, and mataawaka) to engage in the housing crisis for urban Māori in culturally-consistent and sustainable ways.

Contact: Co-Principal Investigators: Rau Hoskins, Unitec, e-mail and Associate Prof Jenny Lee-Morgan, University of Waikato, e-mail

Research Project: Toitū te Kāinga, Toitū te Ora, Toitū te Tangata

The Toitū te Kāinga, Toitū te Ora, Toitū te Tangata (Sustainable Homes, Healthy People) is a collaborative science challenge partnership between Ohomai Institute of Technology, Unitec Institute of Technology, Scion, and Auckland offsite design and manufacturing company Tall Wood. Led by Toi Ohomai, and launched In November 2017, the research is designed to help realise the aspirations of Te Matekuare Whānau Trust who are establishing a unique papakāinga development at Te Whaiti.  Using both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, the research team aims to support Te Matekuare Whānau Trust to realise their vision of having affordable, sustainable, and healthy homes (and whanau) living on their self-sustaining papakāinga (whenua). 

Te Whaiti papakāinga development is a case study around which a broad programme of research, that explores multiple themes, is wrapped. Using a holistic approach, experts in design, construction, public health, architecture, and sustainability are aiming to enliven Te Matekuare whanau aspirations.  The case study is focused on benefits for Māori, and developing mātauranga Māori, in relation to affordable and healthy housing. However, the findings have potential to benefit people from all cultural origins who have an interest in community housing development.

Contact: Project Leader Dr Tepora Emery, e-mail

Māori research across the BBHTC NSC

Research Area: Transforming Homes, Towns and Cities by Understanding and Re-tooling the Architecture and Logics of Decision-Making

This research programme seeks to understand the complex ‘architecture of decision-making’ that shapes our homes, towns, and cities. Three inter-connected groups play a role in this decision-making: critical resource holders (e.g. of land and of money); critical actors on the supply-side (e.g. developers) and demand-side (e.g. owner-occupiers, tenants); and regulating agencies. Component 1 of this research programme examines decision-making logics and pathways. A case study with Ngāi Te Rangi in Tauranga Moana is following the iwi’s journey to understand and support the housing aspirations of their hapū and whanau. Influences on the iwi’s decision-making and their pathways to housing solutions are being documented, from initial ideas through to the potential provisioning of housing. When invited, the research team is contributing their expertise to support decision-making. The aim is to understand how decisions are made within a complex environment, alongside the levers the iwi has to support achieving desired housing pathways. Exploring the experience and responses of a particular iwi operating in an environment shaped by financial and legislative conditions specifically affecting Māori, as well as market conditions that affect all community organisations seeking to meet the affordable housing needs of their communities will illuminate the pinch points that inhibit access to housing. This research complements research work on the experiences of existing Māori housing providers and papakāinga developments.

Revitalising the production of affordable homes to provide for successful, engaged, and healthy lives

The security of home ownership in Aotearoa New Zealand is declining as housing becomes increasingly unaffordable for those wanting to buy their first home and for those burdened with high rents. This programme of research focuses on the value of and demand for low-cost housing and the potential reorientation of the building industry to deliver low-cost housing. An aspect of Component One of this research programme explores the links between low-cost housing and the financial, social, and cultural wellbeing of individuals and families across their life course. This is taken further through a wider engagement exploring wellbeing concepts bound together in holistic understandings of hauora (health) and whanau ora (family wellbeing). A wide range of Māori stakeholders are being interviewed, from whanau (families) to tribal and community leaders, from researchers to those in the building industry, from landlords to social-housing developers. The aim of this project is to understand if low-cost housing is a component of, and contributor to, whanau ora. If it is, then an argument can be made for investment in low-cost housing for whanau as part of the broader platform of whanau ora.

Contact: Dr Fiona Cram, Katoa Ltd., e-mail

Mana whenua: Building vibrant communities

This research seeks a systems understanding, from a mana whenua perspective, of what makes vibrant and regenerative tier-two settlements. The project is the northern component of SRA3: Supporting success in regional settlements, and focuses on three settlements in the ‘Golden Triangle’ – Pokeno, Huntly, and Opotiki. Our central research questions are:

(1)    what structural changes/trajectories are occurring in these three communities;

(2)    what types of physical and social (including health and education) infrastructure contributes to vibrant communities;

(3)    how can mana whenua aspirations shape the development of a vibrant community; and

(4)    how can structural change, infrastructure and aspirations be modelled to enhance mana whenua in tier-two communities?

While the majority of research is concentrated on tier-one settlements, or predominantly on mainstream voices – this project seeks to articulate Māori/mana whenua views about regenerative activities that positively reinforce these tier-two settlements as vibrant communities. The project, therefore, seeks to identify, within a systems view, levers that can empower and support mana whenua development in these towns, and indeed for the benefit of the town as a whole.

Contact:  Jono Kilgour, e-mail

Next-generation information for better outcomes

There is an expanding wealth of digital information, particularly geospatial data, which could be better used to inform developing better homes, towns, and cities. This is particularly relevant to better urban planning. However, much of this data is underutilised or not being translated into good information on the one hand, and is largely incommensurate with Māori knowledge and understandings, on the other hand. In addition, very little data is easily scaled from local to regional and national levels, or vice versa. This Strategic Research Area aims to devise a model and framework to guide the successful incorporation of Mātauranga Māori within urban and semi-urban developments; and to develop and draft cadastral legislation to enable Māori land-right preferences to have a genuine presence within the current cadastral system. A research impact will be that Mātauranga Māori would introduce cultural realities to the wider New Zealand planning debate for improved decision-making in urban environments, which would ultimately lead to stronger communities and a better quality and supply of housing. Research sites are located in Invercargill, Wellington, Waikato, and Northland. The cases represent a mixture of mana whenua and mātā waka to capture the demographic diversity in urban areas and to determine the relevance of geospatial information to Māori – and vice-versa, that is, the relevance of Mātauranga Māori to geospatial information.

Contact: Prof. Angus Macfarlane, e-mail

Contestable Project

He Kāinga Pai Rawa: A really good home

This project is a kaumātua-focused, holistic, and cultural approach to creating secure, affordable, sustainable, age-friendly, and healthy housing for kaumātua. The first urban example of community-led culturally-responsive social housing for kaumātua in Aotearoa, Moa Crescent was developed by Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa (and later its subsidiary Ngā Rau Tātangi) during the period 2012-2014.  This research applies three Think Pieces based on two phases (2012 and 2014) of the Moa Cres initiative. The first Think Piece, “Te Moemoeā” (The dream/vision/desire), will identify the organising processes, relationships, costs (e.g. financial and time), and leadership required to implement the original kaumātua village initiative. The second Think Piece, “Kia Tūtuki te Moemoeā” (The road to making the dream a reality), will also contribute to developing an organisational best-practice and transferrable model for developing an urban kaumātua village. The third Think Piece, “Kua ea te Moemoeā” (The achievement of the dream/vision), investigates the kaumātua residents and their whānau. The likely impacts of this study will be to improve the quality and supply of culturally-responsive urban kaumātua housing.  It will also develop a potential ‘Best Practice Tool’ for use by other Māori organisations and communities, and it will create the foundation for a research agenda to investigate how to translate the successful organising and residential components of Moa Cres for other Māori organisations wanting to provide secure, healthy, and affordable homes for kaumātua and/or whānau.

Contact: Rangimahora Reddy, e-mail  and Dr Sophie Nock, e-mail

Further information

For further information on Māori research and kaupapa Māori activities in the Challenge please contact BBHTC Director Māori Dr Jessica Hutchings,