Co-Governance in your organisation

Co-governance is a misunderstood and much-maligned concept in Aotearoa/NZ.  Although the current government does not support it as the basis for our health system, co-governance will continue to be of interest to organisations committed to bicultural and Treaty-based practice.

At the Policy Place, many of our clients and online members are deeply committed to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In this post, we consider some governance and organisational arrangements to reflect this commitment and how policies and procedures can help.

Constitutional options for co-governance 

Co-governance refers to an equality model of decision-making. It gives practical effect to the Te Tiriti undertakings of good governance, honourable partnership and protection and respect for Tino Rangatiratanga of iwi, hapū.

There are different models of co-governance. See here and here for more.

In a business or social or health service context, co-governance arrangements might involve Constitutional requirements for:

  • the appointment of an equal number of Tangata Whenua and non-indigenous/Tau Iwi to a Board or other governance structure
  • all or some decisions to be referred and approved by Māori and Tau Iwi caucuses
  • parallel processes for Māori and non-Māori to make decisions, collaborate and access services
  • respect for the values, tikanga, reo and other taonga of Māori/mana whenua
  • kaupapa Māori – by Māori for Māori agency
  • recognition of He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni/The Declaration of Independence, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and NZ law
  • explicit recognition and encouragement for liaison between Kaupapa Māori, iwi-based and mainstream services
  • other arrangements as agreed between an organisation and mana whenua.

Policies and procedures to support co-governance

If you don’t have co-governance reflected in the Trust Deed or constitution for your agency, a Te Tiriti o Waitangi policy can be a great way to reflect and support a Treaty-based approach. See here for ideas on what can be covered in Te Tiriti o Waitangi policy.

Other policies and procedures to help give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi will include those addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies; Board Membership and Recruitment policies for Board and Staff.

Training and Induction for co-governance

The importance of governance and staff induction and training should not be forgotten. These processes will tautoko co-governance and help build cultural competency across your organisation.

Board induction will introduce new Board members to your Trust Deed/Constitutional requirements and the Board’s role in setting the organisational vision and strategy.

Staff induction will include coverage of your organisation’s values and key policies, procedures and documents.


Co-governance can be achieved at constitutional, governance and operational levels of organisations.  It’s an important way to give practical effect to the undertaking of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to steer an organisation in Treaty-based practice.