by Rochelle Stewart-Allen

The mahi continues to explore how to build recovery and long-term sustainability for the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This follows on from Hui E!’s work with Volunteering New Zealand, Philanthropy New Zealand and the Centre for Social Impact on the ‘Time to shine, time to take stock, time to shape our future’ survey where 1,400 community organisations shared the impacts of COVID-19 on their mahi.

On 3 August, Hui E! Community Aotearoa and Volunteering New Zealand joined with researchers from the Centre for Social Impact to present the results of this survey. On that webinar, we presented our recommendations for a way forward.

Read about our last korero on 10 August 2020 here

We continue to issue a call for community leaders keen to take ownership and work together to drive changes for our sector. Reach out to us at to join future koreros.

Our second sector discussions

Following on from our August 2020 korero, a group of community leaders met again on 5 February 2021 to discuss how to improve core relationships between the community sector and government. Here is a quick overview about what we agreed on:
  • Our group acknowledged the large amount of work already embarked on to improve community sector / government relationships over the years, however there still remains some serious issues
  • Long-term change for the community sector needs to sit outside individuals sitting in community organisations, government agencies or Ministerial positions – it’s much broader and includes us all
  • Our ask is for government to shift away from transactional relationships, into high-trust models where our integrity is valued, our ability to get the mahi done is recognised, and we are fully funded for what we deliver on behalf of government
  • The fundamental question to be answered is “HOW do we improve government / community sector relationships?” We started korero on the foundations of this mahi.

We’re excited!

  • As a group of community leaders, we know the public service can do things differently as we witnessed this during COVID. It’s time to capitalize on that opportunity rather than let things slide back to the way they were before.
  • We are pleased to see kaupapa Maori as a bigger component of RFPs / contracts, and evidence that the New Zealand Government is looking at how to better serve Maori and Pasifika peoples.
  • We are happy to see more co-design happening between government and the community sector.
  • We talked about the need for consistent messaging from the community sector to government and having a more collaborative, louder voice.
  • We are worried that relationships with government officials or Ministers where they don’t “like or value” your organisation can hinder gaining traction or being heard
  • We agreed that personal and productive relationships with people in government result in much better outcomes. Transactional relationships do not result in trusted relationships
  • There is a danger in community organisations aligning strategies with government priorities and losing our integrity and focus on who and what is most important
  • We acknowledged the importance of keeping our ethics, integrity and focus in the right place – on the communities we serve.

Changes, challenges and opportunities

  • Our group know the government has faced huge challenges through COVID and there are continual changes in Ministers and government officials to manage.
  • We acknowledged the amazing way the community sector has been flexible, innovative and responsive to our communities over the past year.
  • We acknowledged that the community sector has spent a lot of time and resource over many years developing the skills and infrastructure that’s needed to support communities.
  • We believe the community sector delivers a level of wellbeing support to community which government doesn’t know about.
  • We believe there is opportunity for Aoteaoroa New Zealand to lead the world in equity and wellbeing.
  • We are constantly challenged to support community wellbeing in constrained funding environments, but we’re creative in how we manage this.
  • We want to see much higher trust for our sector from government and funders.
  • We saw so many positive things in the way government responded to COVID – easier access to funding, less onerous application processes, faster decision making, higher trust relationships.
  • We know there is power in data to tell a bigger story of the community sector’s contribution to wellbeing.
  • Te Ao Māori provides a foundation to care for people and land which we can expand on and use as a basis to do better.

Why is improving government / community sector relationships important?

  • We believe the community sector is a large part of how Aotearoa achieves and receives wellbeing and connectedness, so the sector has to have a good relationship with government.
  • We acknowledged that government relationships are challenging and this is particularly difficult for organisations not based in Wellington.
  • We believe the community sector can work together in collaboration as we already share the same views.
  • We know that if we do nothing to improve government / community relationships, we’ll carry on the same way until we have another crisis, and then we’ll have to relearn the lessons all over again.
  • We agreed on the waka analogy of using intention to bring people into or out of the waka, having people play an important part in onboarding/offloading from the waka, and being clear about our journey and destination.
  • We acknowledged that if our sector doesn’t continue to be consistent in our messaging and raise a collective voice to government, then we’re not providing justice to our community and whanau.
  • We believe that if the sector remains whānau and community focussed, then we are required to work together.
  • We agreed we need to bring more people into our waka, then together embed and solidify those relationships with government.
  • We need to be nimble enough to be aware that any time there are changes in government officials / Ministers we have to start afresh and we need strategies to manage this.
  • We reminded ourselves that keeping our integrity and independence is important.

What’s next?

We will come together again on 10 February and 15 February to expand on our korero. Stay tuned for the next update. A reminder if you would like to participate in this mahi, please reach out to us at

Read our first update on recovery and long-term sustainability for the community sector.

Read more about the survey results on how COVID-19 impacted the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector.

Download the dataset from the COVID-19 survey and do your own analysis.