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He Ara Waiora

He Ara Waiora is a framework that helps the Treasury to understand waiora, often translated as a Māori perspective on wellbeing.

The Treasury’s vision is ‘lifting living standards for all New Zealanders’. Advising on lifting living standards for all New Zealanders raises a number of questions:

  • What are the living standards that New Zealanders value? Are they the same for everyone?

  • How well equipped is the public service to understand what living standards mean to a wide range of New Zealanders?

  • Might we be able to learn and apply lessons from cultures other than the dominant one?

He Ara Waiora gives an indigenous and uniquely Aotearoa New Zealand response to these questions by taking a tikanga-based approach to wellbeing.

What is He Ara Waiora?

The term ‘waiora’ speaks to a broad conception of human wellbeing, grounded in wai (water) as the source of ora (life).

He Ara Waiora presents a holistic, intergenerational approach to wellbeing. While its principles are derived from mātauranga Māori, many of its elements are relevant to lifting the intergenerational wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

He Ara Waiora articulates both the ends, or what are important elements in Māori perceptions of wellbeing, and the means, or the tikanga values or principles that help us achieve the ends.

The ends are:

  • Wairua (spirit) is at the centre to reflect that it is the foundation or source of wellbeing. Values, beliefs and practices related to wairua are essential to Māori conceptions of waiora.
  • Te Taiao (the natural world – the environment), is paramount and inextricably linked with human wellbeing. Humans have responsibilities and obligations to sustain and maintain the wellbeing of Te Taiao.
  • Te Ira Tangata (the human domain) encapsulates human activities and relationships, including the relationships between generations. The concept of mana (power, authority) is seen as key to wellbeing.

The means, or key principles, are:

  • Kotahitanga – working in an aligned, coordinated way
  • Tikanga – making decisions in accordance with the right values and processes, including in partnership with the Treaty partner
  • Whanaungatanga – fostering strong relationships through kinship and/or shared experience that provide a shared sense of wellbeing
  • Manaakitanga – enhancing the mana of others through a process of showing proper care and respect
  • Tiakitanga – guardianship, stewardship (e.g. of the environment, particular taonga or other important processes and systems).

Figure 31: He Ara Waiora

Where did it come from?

He Ara Waiora was initially developed with the Tax Working Group, which sought to think about how tikanga Māori could help create a more future-focused tax system. This involved a process of engaging with iwi and Māori across the motu, with the ongoing input of a number of eminent Māori business and thought leaders.

How has it been applied so far?

The Treasury is at an early stage of its journey in piloting the application of He Ara Waiora in a range of policy issues.

Lifting living standards for all New Zealanders is the Treasury’s vision. He Ara Waiora can help us to interweave and embed Te Ao Māori perspectives in our policy advice with integrity.

A summary of He Ara Waiora on a single A3 page is being produced and will soon be available from this page.

For more information about how He Ara Waiora has been applied, see the links below.

Last updated: 
Friday, 7 May 2021