Te Puni Kōkiri was established in 1992, but our whakapapa began at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Last updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2022 | Rātū, 05 Hōngongoi, 2022

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As a government agency, Te Puni Kōkiri traces its history back to The Protectorate Department (1840-1846) under missionary and teacher George Clarke, who held the title of Chief Protector. Its goal was to protect the rights of Māori people guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi. Clarke’s single minded insistence on protecting those rights led to the abolishment of The Protectorate.

Its next guise was the Native Department (1861-1893) – associated with a largely bleak period in Māori-Pākehā relations when many Pākehā had put aside the Treaty of Waitangi and were concerned only to dominate Māori society.

However, it was during this period that the native school system was developed and that the Māori Members of Parliament were established to give Māori opinion a voice in the House of Representatives.


The third iteration was the Native Department established in 1906 under the guidance of Native Minister Sir James Carroll with an initial focus on land settlement and health.

Over the next 80 years, the functions of the department expanded to include consolidation of titles (1927), Māori land development (1929), employment promotion (1931), the work of the Māori Trustee (1932), housing (1959), vocational training (1959) relocation (1960) administration of New Zealand’s Pacific Island affairs and responsibility for Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand (1968 to 1975), Kohanga Reo (1981), Mana Enterprises (1986), MACCESS (1987).

The department was renamed the Department of Māori Affairs in 1947 after Prime Minister Peter Fraser, who was also Minister of Native Affairs passed legislation substituting the word Māori for Native wherever it occurred.

The staff of 45 in 1906 gradually grew over the years to reach a peak in the late 1970s of just under 1000 permanent staff across several regions.

1989 - current

In 1989 the Department of Maori Affairs was replaced by two new organisations – the Ministry of Maori Affairs (Manatū Māori) and the Iwi Transition Agency (Te Tira Ahu Iwi).

In 1992 both new organisations were replaced by Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development. Its statutory responsibilities are to promote Māori achievement in health, training and employment, education and economic development; and to monitor the adequacy of the State sector’s services to Māori.

Since 1840, there have been 32 administrative heads of Te Puni Kōkiri and its predecessors. Tipi Tainui Ropiha was the first Māori administrative head, in 1948.

Source: Butterworth, G. V., and H. R. Young. Māori Affairs. Wellington: Iwi Transition Agency; GP Books, 1990.