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Maungatautari volcano Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.jpg


This site collects experiences from some of the people involved in co-governing, as well as information from research, official documents and many other sources. We invite you to explore these stories and opinions about co-governance, and will be posting more links as we find them.

These pages have been created by a group of people from around Aotearoa New Zealand, who are concerned at the lack of information, the misinformation and fear about co-governance.


Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the Waikato (seen in this image) is co-governed by a trust made up of members from the community, landowners and local iwi representatives


What is co-governance?

Co-governance means the sharing of governance, which decides long-term strategic directions.  In Aotearoa New Zealand we have co-governance entities at local and regional levels, and many NGOs and other organisations operate with a co-governance model.  Co-governance is different from ownership. It's also different from management, which is responsible for day-to-day operation. However, some co-governance organisations also involve some co-management, and there are agreements at local and regional level that are only about co-management. In addition, some critics consider any organisations which have at least some input from Māori as co-governing. It's not surprising that there is confusion.

See our expanded discussion of the meanings of co-governance and co-management.

See a list of co-governed organisations.    

See an interview with Professor Margaret Mutu, Pou Tikanga of Iwi Chairs Forum.

Joint Statement from Iwi Chairs Forum, Māori Women's Welfare League and New Zealand Māori Council.

Forest Path

How does co-governance work?

Co-governance boards are commonly made up of roughly equal numbers of people representing local or regional authorities (who may be appointed or elected) and people representing hapū and iwi (who are appointed according to tikanga Māori, usually after wide discussion in contributing hapū). Some co-governance boards also include representatives of community or other stakeholder groups. 

Some of our leading political scientists and legal scholars have argued that co-governance is more democratic than majority votes because it brings more voices to the table, and that institutionalised means of participation by indigenous people may make democracy work better.

See the Auditor-General’s report on co-governance operating in six entities.

See Environmental Defence Society’s overview of co-governance operating in eight entities.

What are people saying about democracy in a co-governance context?

Gravel Road into the Forest

How does co-governance relate to Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi?

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a commitment to a relationship between hapū and the Crown for mutual benefit. Hapū and iwi gave non-Māori and future migrants a recognised place in their country (Tangata Tiriti), and allowed for a British governor to take control of the non-Māori people. The Queen of England (now the government) promised to uphold hapū authority (te tino rangatiranga) and the rights of hapū to their lands (whenua) and all they treasured (taonga).

The Waitangi Tribunal has agreed that rangatira who signed te Tiriti did not cede sovereignty and that questions of relative authority (over joint issues) were "to be negotiated case by case.” 

Co-governance is an expression of negotiating shared interests case by case and goes some way to meeting the historically neglected obligations and promises made in Te Tiriti. 

See what researchers from three universities say about co-governance and te Tiriti.

Read a Network Waitangi Ōtautahi contribution to this topic.

Read Susan Healy’s reflection on why we should support co-governance.

Read more views on co-governance and te Tiriti.


What is it like to work in a co-governed organisation?

Board members from co-governed organisations around the country agreed that the process is good.  They valued the different perspectives around the table.  They also said that while making decisions by consensus could initially be challenging for those who’d never done it, the process was no harder than any other form of governance and it led to better outcomes.  

See why co-governance is nothing like what you think.

Co-governance can pose some challenges for iwi and hāpū.

See what others practising co-governance say here. 

Lake Landscape

How are decisions made in co-governance?

Co-governance decisions are usually made by consensus (where everyone comes to agreement) rather than by voting (where the majority wins). Those who work in co-governance see this as a strength. They say that while making decisions sometimes takes longer, it leads to decisions that last, and which are much less likely to be re-litigated. It also encourages everyone to focus on the shared goal, rather than on winning. 

See legal researcher Carwyn Jones on co-governance and shared decision-making.

This website has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0); you are welcome to download and share our text, as long as you credit the site, but not to remix or alter the text, or use it commercially.

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