Papa Pounamu’s requirement for cultural competence ensures Public Service organisations provide advice to their people on how to build cultural competence and detail on available learning solutions.

Te tikanga o te āheinga ahurea What cultural competence means

In the Papa Pounamu work programme, cultural competence means recognising our own worldview and understanding and valuing the cultural and social norms reflected in our diverse Public Service. Culture can broadly include, but is not limited to, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religious or faith affiliation and more.

Te hira o te whakatipu āheinga ahurea Why building cultural competence matters

Building cultural competency enables us to create fairer, more diverse and inclusive workplaces that reflect the communities we serve. It also enables the Public Service to engage with public servants to achieve this and design and deliver services that meet the needs of all New Zealanders, now and into the future.

Āheinga hononga Māori Karauna Māori Crown relations capability

Organisations have additional responsibilities for building their Māori Crown relations capability. The Public Service has an important role in supporting the Crown in its relationship with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi | Treaty of Waitangi. The Public Service Act 2020 explicitly recognises this and requires all Public Service leaders to develop and maintain the capability of the public service to engage with Māori and to understand Māori perspectives. Te Arawhiti has produced a Māori Crown Relations Capability Framework to assist organisations in developing their capability.

Māori Crown Relations Capability Framework — Te Arawhiti 

Te whakatipu āheinga ahurea How to build cultural competence

Public Sector organisations should adopt a cultural competence learning solution that best suits their needs and one that all employees have access to. To succeed, people leaders should lead by example, undertaking the same cultural competence learning offered in their organisation and modelling those behaviours in their day-to-day actions. To make positive progress, organisations must intentionally plan, do and report.

  • Planning

    Each organisation will need to assess and determine what the best approach is to build its cultural competence. This is likely to look different for different organisations and may even require different approaches within organisations. All organisations should outline their planned approach to building cultural competence in their annual plans.


    “We plan on building cultural competence by ensuring all employees have access to the Mana Āki cultural competence learning module. We expect 95% of all people leaders will have started and 75% will have completed Mana Āki by the first quarter.”


  • Doing

    Building cultural competence is about increasing awareness, building knowledge, acquiring the right skills, learning appropriate behaviours and developing the right attitudes to value diversity and include everyone. It’s important that we all take on the responsibility to do the work.

    It is expected that organisations will authorise time for individuals and teams to fully engage with their cultural competence learning. Organisations should celebrate the value that increasing their cultural competence brings and acknowledge it as an important step towards building a truly diverse and inclusive Public Service.


    “All leaders authorise time for training and development in their organisation. Teams set aside time or use regular team meeting time to discuss and reflect on their cultural capability learning progress. This motivates team members to stay on track with their learning.”


  • Reporting

    In your annual report you are expected to include specific evidence or examples of action that demonstrates your progress in building cultural competence within your organisation.


    “We have promoted the availability of Mana Āki through our staff intranet and through our leaders and are tracking our progress. Over 81% of our people leaders have started the Mana Āki programme — of these 73% have completed the programme. The vast majority of those that have completed it worked through the programme with their teams. Of those that had completed the programme, 15% undertook it on their own.”

  • Case study

    Building Cultural Competence: Department of Corrections 

    Ara Poutama Aotearoa is one of the largest government departments. It employs around 9,000 staff with the majority working with offenders in one of 18 prisons or 151 Community Corrections sites across New Zealand. 

    Ara Poutama Aotearoa is building cultural capability through an online learning programme called Mairangatia, which means: to raise, elevate, or uplift. The programme is specific to the organisation and is aligned to organisational values. Mairangatia includes self-directed learning modules and this is followed by facilitated group discussions and personal reflection exercises.

    The facilitated sessions promote discussion but are developed to ensure cultural and psychological safety. The reflection component is designed to build greater understanding of unconscious bias and intercultural awareness. The programme provides a model for conversations about wellbeing and putting organisational values into action. 

    Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s approach focuses on developing skills and knowledge of Te Reo Maori and Te Ao Māori but encourages a broader approach to building cultural competency. This means giving recognition to the diversity in Ara Poutama’s workforce. 

    In 2021, Ara Poutama Aotearoa piloted the Mairangatia programme with a cohort of 75 kaimahi from the Central Region and selected teams. Participants liked that it was an introductory programme that incorporated a team building dimension.

    The organisation is currently incorporating changes to help make the material more relevant to the different roles, with particular focus on frontline services. It is expected the programme will be launched across the organisation in early 2023. 

Ngā rauemi āheinga ahurea Tools and resources for cultural competence

Many organisations will already be using a form of cultural competence training. Other organisations who do not have a current cultural competence learning solution are encouraged to work with their people to explore their options.

You can tailor or customise your own cultural competence learning solution, use a ready-made learning solution from external providers or adopt a pre-existing cultural competence learning solution that has been made available for the wider Public Service.

  • Mana Āki

    Mana Āki is an intercultural competence learning solution. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) led the design of this solution, which was created with the wider public service in mind. MBIE has made this freely available for use by the Public Service.

    This intercultural competence development programme is intended to help the Public Service to best meet the needs of an increasingly diverse Aotearoa.

    Mana Āki consists of 8 online modules and 4 team discussions. It takes approximately 8 weeks to complete.

    There are several possible delivery modes for Mana Āki. Organisations can choose to use one or more of these. For information about delivery modes and to request resources for use in your organisation, contact

    Organisations who have access to our Diversity and Inclusion Resource Hub can find the modules there.

  • Intercultural capability training

    The Ministry for Ethnic Communities is committed to promoting the benefits of ethnic diversity and offers an Intercultural Capability eLearning programme to support this. This introductory programme is aimed at increasing people's cultural understanding to better interact or communicate with people from different backgrounds.

    The programme is made up 4 four modules and focuses on understanding what culture is, how it impacts on communication and behaviour and provides tools and methods for improving people’s ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries. The programme is interactive, self-directed and self-paced, meaning you can move through it as quickly or slowly as you like.

    Intercultural Capability training — Ministry for Ethnic Communities 

  • Yavu — Foundations of Pacific Engagement

    Engaging with Pacific Communities in meaningful and relevant ways will help us to progress beyond a consultation approach when developing policies and initiatives that impact Pacific peoples. The Ministry for Pacific Peoples has developed this framework that sets out the cultural protocols and steps for building, nurturing and maintaining relationships when working with Pacific peoples.

    Find the Yavu resources by scrolling down the Ministry of Pacific People’s resources page.

    Resources — Ministry for Pacific Peoples

Māori Crown relationships

One of the most important roles of the Public Service is to support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Read more