Cultural Adequacy

Cultural adequacy in housing recognises that housing is more than just a physical structure and that it plays a central role in shaping the cultural identity and practices of the whānau and/or individuals who live in it. These aspects raised are particularly important, especially in the unique context of Aotearoa.

Housing that does not take into account the expression of cultural identity can be inadequate as it may fail to provide a space that is respectful, accommodating, and supportive of cultural practices and traditions of whānau and/or individuals. This can have negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of whānau and individuals as well as on the broader community. Therefore, it is important to prioritise cultural adequacy in the planning, design, construction, and management of housing in order to ensure that the right to a decent home is realised.

Respect for cultural diversity is an integral part of ensuring a decent home. In Aratohu Tika Tangata ki te Whai Whare Rawaka i Aotearoa: Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa, we emphasise the importance of acknowledging and respecting cultural diversity. Housing has a significant cultural dimension with various communities such as Māori, Pacific peoples, and culturally diverse groups having distinct models of living – for example, whānau or ‘aiga. The housing system should reflect our cultural diversity, as one standard model of housing cannot meet the needs of everyone.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi and cultural adequacy

Te Tiriti o Waitangi establishes a partnership between the Māori and the Crown and recognises the unique status and rights of Māori. In the context of te Tiriti o Waitangi, cultural adequacy in housing means that the housing provided should respect and acknowledge the cultural identity of Māori communities and their relationship to the land. For Māori, cultural identity is deeply connected to their relationship with the whenua (land) and te taiao (the natural environment), and this relationship should be respected and considered in the provision of housing. This may involve incorporating elements of Māori culture and design into housing such as the use of traditional materials and building techniques, understanding spatial relationship principles of tapu and noa, or ensuring that housing is located in areas that are culturally appropriate and accessible to Māori communities. Te Tiriti o Waitangi also requires the Crown to actively engage with Māori communities and to ensure that their cultural rights and aspirations are fully respected and realised. This means that the government should work collaboratively with Māori communities to ensure that housing policies and practices are culturally responsive and inclusive and that they support the expression of Māori cultural identity and values.

We are lacking data to measure cultural adequacy

There is a lack of information about whether housing meets people’s cultural needs. While we have data on the suitability of housing locations and access to amenities, there is limited knowledge about how well housing aligns with the cultural requirements of diverse communities. According to 2018 Census data, Aotearoa consists of approximately 160 ethnic groups, with the largest numbers belonging to New Zealand European, Māori, Chinese, Indian, and Samoan populations (Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ, 2020a).

Research has shown that housing often fails to meet the needs of diverse populations. A recent publication by the Royal Society Te Apārangi (2021) highlighted inequalities in housing, particularly for Māori. The Waitangi Tribunal Kaupapa Inquiry into Housing Policy and Services (Wai 2750) has commenced investigations into the government’s failure to adequately address the housing needs of Māori (Waitangi Tribunal, 2023). Other examples include the inflexibility of the housing stock to meet the needs of our diverse society. For example, Pacific peoples tend to live in larger households on average but often struggle to find housing that is large enough and meets cultural needs around space (Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ, 2023).

While we lack good national-level data around the cultural adequacy of housing, the 2018 General Social Survey asked people how suitable their house or flat was. Housing suitability is defined as “the ability of households to meet their housing needs – to access housing, public services and amenities, and local opportunities such as employment or schooling that is appropriate to their needs, cultural expectations, and their aspirations and preferences” (Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ, 2009).

Māori, Pacific peoples and people with Asian ethnicity were less likely to rate their home as very suitable. An analysis of wellbeing outcomes revealed that those who considered their housing to be unsuitable or very unsuitable had, on average, lower levels of life satisfaction compared to those with suitable or very suitable housing (Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ, 2021).

Ways to start measuring cultural adequacy

Measuring cultural adequacy

Measuring cultural adequacy in housing can be a complex and multifaceted task, as culture is a highly subjective and personal concept that can differ greatly between whānau, individuals and communities. However, there are a few ways that duty bearers and governments can attempt to measure cultural adequacy in housing:

  1. Engage with Māori communities: To promote cultural adequacy in housing, governments can actively engage with diverse Māori communities to gain a deeper understanding of how this concept applies within an ao Māori context. This involves seeking guidance and input from Māori communities to understand what cultural adequacy in housing means to them and how it can be facilitated through the provision of housing. By engaging with Māori communities in this way, governments can ensure that housing policies and practices are respectful, inclusive, and culturally appropriate and that the right to adequate housing is fully realised for Māori communities.
  2. Consult with community members: Governments can engage in consultations with various members of the community who are impacted by housing policies and programmes to gain a better understanding of what cultural adequacy means to them. This can involve conducting surveys, capturing pūrākau (narrative and stories), holding public meetings, or working with community organisations to gather input and insights.
  3. Consider the cultural context: Housing policies and programmes should take into account the unique cultural context of the communities they serve. This may include factors such as language, customs, and traditional practices.
  4. Develop culturally appropriate guidelines: Governments can create guidelines for cultural adequacy in housing that reflect the cultural needs and preferences of the communities they serve. These guidelines can be used to inform the design and implementation of housing policies and programmes.
  5. Monitor outcomes: Governments or independent bodies can monitor the outcomes of their housing policies and programmes to ensure that they are achieving cultural adequacy. This can involve collecting data on housing conditions, resident satisfaction, and other indicators to assess the impact of policies and programmes on cultural adequacy.

Measuring cultural adequacy in housing requires a comprehensive approach that considers the unique needs and perspectives of the communities being served. It is important for governments to engage in ongoing consultation and monitoring to ensure that their housing policies and programmes are culturally responsive, appropriate and effective.

Assessing the impact of cultural adequacy

Assessing the impact of policies and programmes on cultural adequacy requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods as well as engagement with communities.

  1. Develop indicators: You can start by developing indicators to measure cultural adequacy. These indicators should reflect the cultural identity and values of diverse communities and may include aspects such as language, tikanga or customs, wairuatanga (spirituality), and community engagement. These indicators should be developed in partnership and consultation with communities to ensure that they are culturally appropriate.
  2. Collect data: Collect relevant data on the indicators that have been developed. This may involve surveys, interviews, kōrero, wānanga, focus groups, and other methods of data collection. It is important to engage with communities during this process to ensure that the data collection is culturally sensitive and appropriate.

Analyse data: Once the data has been collected, it is important to analyse it to assess the impact of policies and programmes on cultural adequacy. This may involve statistical analysis, thematic analysis, and other methods of data analysis.



Royal Society Te Apārangi. (2021). Spotlight on Housing: Te Tapeke – Fair Futures in Aotearoa. Wellington: Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved from

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ (2009). Review of housing statistics report 2009. Retrieved from Stats NZ Store House. 

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ (2020a). Ethnic group summaries reveal New Zealand's multicultural make-up. Retrieved from 

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ. (April 30, 2020). 2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights (updated). Retrieved from

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ (2020, updated 2021). Housing in Aotearoa: 2020. Retrieved from

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ. (August 26, 2021) “Te Pā Harakeke: Māori housing and wellbeing 2021.” Retrieved from

Tatauranga Aotearoa Stats NZ. (2023). Pacific Housing: People, Place and Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. Wellington: Stats NZRetrieved from

Waitangi Tribunal (2023).Tribunal releases report on Crown homelessness policy’. Retrieved from