This is advice on building cultural competence and provides detail on available learning solutions. This is one of the five Papa Pounamu mandatory requirements that agencies are expected to plan and report on. Advice is available for each of the mandatory requirements:

The five mandatory requirements are designed to complement and work together with existing diversity and inclusion commitments to make the most positive impact across all diversity dimensions.

What do we mean by cultural competence?

For the purposes of this advice, cultural competence means recognising our own worldview and understanding and valuing 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.

Why does building cultural competence matter in the Public Service?

Building cultural competency will enable us to create fair, diverse and inclusive workplaces and reflect the diverse communities we serve. It will also enable the Public Service to engage meaningfully, and to design and deliver services that meet the needs of all New Zealanders, now and into the future.

Māori-Crown Relations capability

Agencies 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 the Te Tiriti o 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 agencies with developing their Māori Crown Relations capability.

How do we build cultural competence in the Public Service?

Public Sector agencies will adopt a cultural competence learning solution that best suits their needs and all employees will have access to this. People leaders ‘walk the talk’ by undertaking the cultural competence learning offered in their agency and will embody the learnings in their day-to-day actions. To make positive progress, agencies intentionally plan, do and report.


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

Example: we plan on building cultural competence by ensuring that 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 June 2021.


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

It is expected that agencies authorise the time for individuals and teams to fully engage with their cultural competence learning. Agencies should champion the value of developing our cultural competence as an important step towards building a truly diverse and inclusive public service.

Example: all leaders authorise time for training and development. 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.


In your Annual Report you will be expected to include specific evidence or examples of action that demonstrates your progress in building cultural competence within your agency.

Example: we have promoted the availability of Mana Āki through our staff intranet and through our leaders. 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. 15% of those that had completed the programme undertook it on their own.

Potential options to building cultural competence in your agency

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

  • Adopt a pre-existing cultural competence learning solution that has been made available for the wider public service i.e.
    • Mana Āki by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
    • Intercultural Capability training by Ministry for Ethnic Communities
    • Yavu: Foundations of Pacific Engagement by Ministry for Pacific Peoples
  • Use an off-the-shelf learning solution delivered by external providers
  • Tailor or customise your own cultural competence learning solution.

Mana Āki

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

This intercultural competence development programme was developed to help the Public Service to best meet the needs of an increasingly diverse Aotearoa. One way of embracing diversity is through the Māori concept of manaaki.

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

There are several possible delivery modes for Mana Āki. Agencies can choose to use one or more of these. For information about delivery modes and to request resources for use in your agency please contact inclusionanddiversity@mbie.govt.nz.

For further information please visit https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/our-work/diversity-and-inclusion/ or contact diversityandinclusion@publicservice.govt.nz

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