Story: Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations

Page 5. Art, health and social groups

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Performing arts

Renewed efforts were made to revive and sustain Māori culture in the 1970s. Since then the culture has undergone a renaissance recognised for its breadth of expression and innovation. This renaissance was propelled by Māori organisations determined to promote Māori cultural identity and values.

Culture clubs of mixed tribal composition, including Ngāti Pōneke in Wellington and Ngāti Ākarana in Auckland, and Māori church groups, flourished. Māori performing arts also burgeoned, culminating in 1972 with the establishment of the biennial kapa haka competition Te Matatini.

Other arts

Māori artists and organisations like Ngā Puna Waihanga (a national body for Māori artists and writers set up in 1973) have fostered the revival of weaving, new visual arts, theatre and creative writing. People on marae-based work-skills programmes in carving and tukutuku worked on the building and restoration of meeting houses. Traditional music-making with instruments such as pūtōrino and kōauau (flutes) has been revived, and taught, often at tertiary institutions.

Urban marae

Migrants from rural areas wanted their own marae for socialising and ceremonies like tangihanga. Urban marae-building associations with a wide range of membership were formed, and within 25 years of the urban migration, marae were built in many towns and cities. Some like Te Puea (Māngere Bridge) and Mataatua (Roturua) were iwi specific. Others were church-based, for example Te Ūnga Waka (Auckland), Hui te Rangiora (Hamilton) and Te Tātai Hono (Auckland) used religion to unify whānau from different tribes. Secular multi-tribal marae appeared too, including Hoani Waititi in Henderson, Auckland, and Ngā Hau e Whā (people of the four winds) in Christchurch.

All urban marae build on work begun by Āpirana Ngata in the 1930s, which focussed on the marae as the symbol of iwi and hapū identity.


The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi were also applied to the provision of health services.

Early initiatives came from Māori nurses who joined together to lobby for change through the Māori Nurses’ Organisation. Their efforts and the help of others resulted in government-funded health projects such as marae-based health centres and iwi-based health service delivery, organised through contracts with the Ministry of Health and area health boards. In 2016 there were over 70 registered Māori health and disability providers offering a wide range of health-care services at local level – by Māori for Māori. Ngā Ngaru Hauora o Aotearoa was the collective voice for the development of Māori health until 2014, when it was absorbed into Ngā Ngaru Rautahi o Aotearoa, the national urban Māori authority.

Social and sports organisations

Māori sports teams loosely tied into tribal, regional and national sports federations proliferated in the 20th century. Their members often played in mixed clubs too but the distinctively Māori cultural flavour and welcoming nature of kin membership has a strong pull.

In larger urban areas such sports and cultural entities are often the main focus of Māori identity for members and whānau. In the last decade of the 20th century canoe building and racing, especially waka ama (outrigger canoes), grew exponentially and spread throughout Polynesia. Waka ama became a major vehicle of Māori cultural identity for participants and supporters.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations - Art, health and social groups', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 April 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017