The Crown looks likely to resume collecting iwi affiliation information when it introduces a new, cloud-based civil registration system in 2024.
The recommendation comes in a draft report "He Tātai Tupuna" by Te Kāhui Tātai Tupuna, also known as the Iwi Affiliation Data Decision Group.
The report says iwi affiliation records are not only critical to one’s whānau identity but also of collective importance to iwi – and of national importance. The records of Iwi affiliation were "a key part of this country’s bicultural, national story".
Collection of iwi affiliation cannot occur without agreement by the Crown for an innovative approach to data capture, storage, control and access for iwi. And people must be able to opt out of the process.
The Crown and iwi will work to co-design a system that would enable iwi to verify that data.
The current civil registration system, known commonly as "births, deaths and marriages" is being replaced as the 25-year-old technology was no longer fit for purpose.
Earlier this month, the Te Tari Taiwhenua - The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) announced it would rebuild its registers in Microsoft's New Zealand cloud region.
The new system, to be introduced in 2024, will replace 25-year-old end-of-life technology, give people more control over their information and be more efficient, secure, and reliable, said registrar-general of births, deaths, and marriages Jeff Montgomery.
This change provided an opportunity to look at ways to make government's wider data ecosystem more responsive to the needs of iwi Māori and to build a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand, DIA said.
Current data sources such as electoral rolls and census statistics were proving of limited use for iwi decision making.
Until 1961, New Zealand used to record iwi affiliation information on Māori birth registrations.
Te Kāhui Tātai Tupuna was formed by Montgomery in 2021 because, he said, the decision whether or not to collect iwi affiliation data was not for the Crown to make.
All iwi and major Māori organisations were invited to be represented on the group, which is co-chaired by the Montgomery and Kirikowhai Mikaere, Pou Ārahi of Te Kāhui Raraunga, chair of Tūhourangi Tribal Authority, and technical lead for the Data Iwi Leaders Group
As well as making recommendations on the collection of information, the group explored the importance of iwi access and control of iwi information, the need for iwi to verify their members, as well as how iwi data in government possession should be stored, accessed and governed.
“Collecting iwi affiliation is important, but just as important is the need for iwi to have control, to verify and confirm that data,” said Mikaere. “High quality verified iwi affiliation data will help ensure Iwi registers are accurate and enable Iwi to provide services to members with confidence.”
Te Kāhui member Te Pūoho Kātene, Pūtea Whakatupu Trust, said the recommending the Crown collect this information came with an explicit commitment to the data being collected for iwi to control, store and govern.
"We want to be very clear this mahi is being undertaken for and with iwi," Kātene said.
The report said the verification process should be undertaken by iwi and/or any organisation they nominate to represent them, rather than the Crown.
Iwi have differing capabilities and resources to undertake this work. Each iwi also had its own tikanga about how it verified the ties of any person to the iwi, and these must be respected.
The decision to use Microsoft's local cloud region for the register rebuild was challenged by Catalyst Cloud CEO Doug Dixon on the grounds that data sovereignty could not be assured when a cloud service was owned and/or controlled from the US.
DIA told Reseller News encryption would be used to ensure data was secure.
"All data stored within the Azure cloud platform will be encrypted with a private key known only to DIA," a spokesperson said. "Should any New Zealand data be sought under the US Cloud Act, the request would first be subject to a legal process and without our cooperation the data would be meaningless without first being decrypted."
Iwi affiliation is an important component of identity and has implications for wellbeing including social and cultural connections, wider connections with place and future opportunities, so it was important the data was accurate.
The report recommends an efficient, effective, and flexible approach that captures, verifies, and stores iwi affiliation records should be co-designed and built with Iwi. This would require Crown support and investment.
Te Kāhui will meet again in November to consider the feedback and finalise the report.