Māori solution to the health and safety challenge

Māori solution to the health and safety challenge

In this third in a series of articles, KPMG partner Matt Prichard argues we should look to tikanga Māori to find rich, unique, New Zealand solutions to our key challenges to give us an advantage on the global stage. The contribution of Māori business to New Zealand’s prosperity is one of the most exciting opportunities of our generation.

Matt Prichard - KPMG NZ - Executive Chairman

Executive Chair

KPMG in New Zealand

Health and Safety - construction workers

If mainstream New Zealand business takes the time and builds relationships of trust, KPMG believes there’s a huge amount to be gained for all New Zealanders from looking inside Te Ao Māori for solutions to some of our biggest challenges.


Keeping people safe at work

New Zealand has an unacceptably poor health and safety record. Our Government has acknowledged that our past approach to keeping people healthy and safe at work has not been effective.

Catastrophic disasters like the Tamahere coolstore explosion in 2008 and Pike River in 2010 destroy lives, families, reputations and companies.

One to two people die every week because of poor health and safety practices.

A mainstream response

Our mainstream response is rules-based, and every director knows the rules are about to get much tougher.

The Health and Safety at Work Act has now been passed, and comes into force in April 2016.

The requirements of the new Act have been well covered in boardroom magazine. The Act will make health and safety a key focus for directors, giving them a personal duty to undertake due diligence over health and safety systems and performance.

Failure by directors to comply with these new duties could result in imprisonment of up to five years and substantial fines – $100,000 to $600,000 for directors and up to $3 million for companies.


Enhanced rules, compliance checks, audits and stronger governance will go some way to improving our terrible health and safety record.

Many believe that these will only take us so far, and that cultural change in our workplaces is the key to really driving down our record of serious accidents and deaths.

Manaakitanga is the Māori concept of respect, generosity and care for others.

People demonstrate manaakitanga by behaving in a way that upholds the mana of others, treating them as an equal or of greater importance than oneself, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect. Displaying manaakitanga elevates the status of all, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

Applying this approach to your organisation’s culture around workplace health and safety has the potential to significantly enhance the success of your programme.

If a leader or manager’s own mana or status comes from the way they care for and take care of those around them, then workers are more likely to be supportive of health and safety measures.

Consider the contrast between a culture of fear of the consequences for non-compliance (although we will never be able to monitor every action in every workplace to enforce that compliance), and a culture of passionately believing that leadership comes from taking care of each other.

This is not an argument for retiring the new rules, processes or inspections. But giving people a passionate belief that supports the way they behave in the workplace will always beat a pure process and controls approach.

Embedding this basic Māori concept in our workplaces could be the most powerful part of a new approach to keeping New Zealanders safe at work.

© 2024 KPMG, a New Zealand partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (KPMG International), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

Connect with us