Recognising, protecting and valuing Ngā Toi Māori is critical to our cultural and economic future

Establishing key industry infrastructure around ringatoi (artists) is critical to ensuring Aotearoa benefits from the commercial, economic and cultural benefits of Ngā Toi Māori (Taonga Works and the Oral Arts).

This is one of the findings of Toi Ora, Tāngata Ora; Toi Ora, Whenua Ora (Healthy Māori Creativity, Healthy People; Healthy Māori Creativity, Healthy Environment) industry development plan produced by Toi Mai Workforce Development Council (WDC).

Following engagement with ringatoi across various disciplines, the plan identifies three broad drivers to enable ringatoi to be part of a thriving powerhouse industry:

  1. Retain, develop and disseminate Ngā Toi Māori knowledge and practices to ensure ringatoi have the skills to thrive.
  2. Ensure the tikanga, cultural and financial value of Ngā Toi Māori is understood and paid appropriately.
  3. Kaitiakitanga (Māori stewardship) and Mana Whakahaere (Māori ownership) is in place to prevent exploitation.

Toi Mai Poumatua Tama Kirikiri says the taonga crafted by Ngā Toi Māori provide substantial commercial, financial and cultural benefits to wider Aotearoa – “benefiting everyone, that is, apart from those involved in their creation.

“Ngā Toi Māori is not formally recognised as an economic sector and lacks the measurement and understanding it rightfully deserves,” he says.

“Because of this, it is difficult to argue its case for government training funding and investment. This leads to an absence of protection for Ngā Toi Māori education and programmes that are constantly under threat with no clear pathways into this invisible industry.”

The plan proposes several key recommendations focused on building industry infrastructure around Ngā Toi Māori. These include:

  • benchmark price models, ‘playbooks’ and healthy procurement processes to underpin sustainable business models for Ngā Toi Māori ringatoi
  • interaction with Ngā Toi Māori practitioners that is respectful and acknowledges the true value of taonga and mātauranga within an entire project scope and budget
  • flexible and adaptive training models that meet ākonga (learners) in their time and place, with safe spaces to learn in.

Kirikiri encourages Ngā Toi Māori workforce members and education providers to provide feedback on the plan’s actions and recommendations.

“Toi Mai wishes to thank all stakeholders who have previously contributed their valuable time to help us advance Toi Ora, Tāngata Ora; Toi Ora, Whenua Ora to the consultation phase. Now we need to know if we have got that thinking right.

“We are encouraging industry members, learners, education providers and those with an interest in the Ngā Toi Māori sector to have an important say in shaping its future.”

Stakeholder feedback will inform the final recommendations and help produce a roadmap the industry, government and others can use to realise the productive potential of the sector.

Consultation on Toi Ora, Tāngata Ora; Toi Ora, Whenua Ora is open until 22 July. For details on the consultation process visit the Ngā Toi Māori webpage.

Key Facts:

  • Toi Mai is one of six Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) established in 2021. The WDCs have a legislative remit to align education and training with industry needs, and to raise the skills and vocational training available to industries.
  • Toi Mai aims to ensure the creative, cultural, recreation and technology sectors in Aotearoa – Ngā Peka o Toi – are supported by a skilled, diverse and thriving workforce.
  • Stakeholder feedback is currently being sought on four new workforce development plans and one industry development plan developed in close collaboration with industry stakeholders.
  • Ngā Toi Māori encompasses practitioners specialising in the creation and composition of taonga works and the oral arts, such as weavers, carvers, tohunga tā moko, writers, musicians, mōteatea and kapa haka performers, composers and choreographers, visual artists, designers, waka and wharenui designers and builders.
  • With Ngā Toi Māori not formally recognised as an economic sector, there is limited data to measure its size and value. Estimates tend to include Māori working in broader occupations such as graphic design, architects and media professionals – which Infometrics assessed as contributing $1.358bn to GDP in New Zealand in 2022.
  • Following the 2014 disestablishment of Ngā Toi Māori-related qualifications delivered by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, there has been a marked drop off in Māori ākonga. Over the 2020–2022 period, only the private training establishment space has seen numbers hold steady, with the total Māori enrolments and completions in universities and polytechnics falling.
  • Toi Ora, Tāngata Ora; Toi Ora, Whenua Ora is classified as an industry development plan (IDP) rather than a workforce development (WDP). Before Toi Mai can understand the workforce and vocational education implications that might flow from Ngā Toi Māori needs, there has to be the industry scaffolding in place that underpins other WDPs.
  • The title of the IDP Toi Ora, Tāngata Ora; Toi Ora, Whenua Ora translates as ‘Healthy Māori Creativity, Healthy People; Healthy Māori Creativity, Healthy Environment’. Te ao Māori often speaks to the duality of concepts, where each is inextricably linked with the other in a symbiotic relationship. This holistic approach determines that each element, while it can be defined in and of itself, is connected to the other. They cannot exist without each other and as such the health of one will inevitably affect the other.