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Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know more about the Maori Identity and Financial Attitudes Study? Here are answers to some of the questions commonly asked about the study.

MIFAS Logo Large

What is the Māori Identity and Financial Attitudes Study (MIFAS)?

The Māori Identity and Financial Attitudes Study (MIFAS) was launched in September 2017. This survey is being conducted by our Marsden grant for ‘How Great Can We Be: Identity Leaders of the Māori Economic Renaissance.’ The MIFAS is the largest survey of Māori financial attitudes ever been conducted. We are so grateful to those of you who have already participated and everyone who took part in helping prepare this study. 

In the first part of the project we (Manuka Henare and Carla Houkamau) gathered, collated and analysed insights from 25 Māori business and iwi leaders to develop our survey (the MIFAS). We also conducted an extensive literature review and spent a great deal of time as a team piloting and tweaking the survey. The MIFAS has been designed to measure how Māori identity shapes financial choices and what ‘Māori economic success as Māori’ looks like in relation to economic outcomes. The MIFAS also includes the multi-dimensional model of Māori identity and cultural engagement (MMM-ICE) which Carla Houkamau and Chris Sibley designed in in 2009.

Carla Houkamau and Chris Sibley talk about the MIFAS - Te Reo Māori
Carla Houkamau and Chris Sibley talk about the MIFAS - English

Why is the study being done?

We hope to promote informed decision-making according to Māori aspirations. This includes representing Māori economic, social, cultural, and environmental values in literature and policy about Māori. Enabling and promoting Māori economic development is important for the future of New Zealand and Māori people.

The Government, public bodies, business and education organisations are interested in the views and attitudes of Māori who use their services or are affected by their policies. The more they know about what Māori people prefer and what works for Māori development the easier it is for them to improve and adapt for Māori. This survey gives you the opportunity to contribute to what goes on. 


Why is the study being done?

How does the MIFAS measure identity?

Identity means different things to different people so we need to know lots of different aspects of how people feel and experience being Māori. The MMM-ICE is a self-reported (Likert-type) questionnaire designed to assess seven dimensions of identity and cultural engagement in Māori populations: group-membership evaluation, socio-political consciousness, cultural efficacy and active identity engagement, spirituality, interdependent self-concept, authenticity of beliefs, and perceived appearance. 

Carla Houkamau and Chris Sibley talk about the measure of Maori identity that they developed for use in the MIFAS.

Why focus on financial attitudes?

Our aim in this research is to answer one of the fundamental questions facing contemporary Māori: How can we foster Māori entrepreneurial behaviour and economic savvy?  

Embracing the notion that ‘Māori must achieve success as Māori’, we believe that answers will be found through asking: when, why and how does culture affect Māori economic aspirations and choices, and to what extent does it vary for Māori from diverse backgrounds?

As the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process draws to a close, the Māori economy is estimated to be worth over $50 billion and some believe that Māori stand on the brink of a ‘Golden Age’ of business growth. However, a closer look at Māori households paints a different picture. Māori feature prominently in negative social statistics and many Māori believe that the intergenerational impact of colonisation is to blame. 

Many Māori have grown tired of deficit approaches to the Māori economy, economic development and Māori ‘well-being’, and a new view that champions ‘Māori success as Māori’ is growing stronger. However, more clarity is needed as to what the statement ‘Māori success as Māori’ really means. What cultural factors inspire and motivate Māori in relation to economic choices?

Understanding Māori economic aspirations is a complex endeavour, with many layers of intra-group diversity to consider. Each iwi (tribe) and hapū (sub-tribe) has their own distinctive history and variations. To date, there have been no large-scale nationwide representative studies with Māori that link personal cultural beliefs and practices to economic choices. Our study aims to fill this gap.  

If we do not have data on attitudes and opinions of a large group of Māori it makes it hard to ‘prove’ what does or does not work for Māori development.

Why focus on financial attitudes?

Who can do the study and how were they selected?

For the survey we are asking people who are listed on the electoral roll and who indicated that they were of Māori descent to answer questions about their identity, education, financial choices and other details about their lives. The electoral roll is available for scientific and health research.

Participants were randomly selected. This means everyone on the electoral roll who indicated that they were of Māori descent had an equal chance of being selected.  

Why should I participate?

Promoting Māori economic development is important for New Zealand’s future.

Iwi organisations, governments, businesses and educators are interested in the views and attitudes of Māori who use their services or are affected by their policies. The more they know about what works for Māori the easier it is for them to adapt.  

Who is doing the study?

The research is led by Carla Houkamau who is a Māori researcher of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngai Tahu and Ngāti Porou descent.

Carla is the Associate Dean for Māori and Pacific Development at the Auckland University Business School and is committed to promoting Māori achievement in Commerce and Economics.

She has been conducting qualitative and quantitative research with and for Māori for over 10 years.

Throughout this project she will be guided by a well-known Māori scholar, Mānuka Hēnare of Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, and Ngāti Kuri descent. Hēnare is a renowned expert in Māoritanga, the philosophy of Māori business development and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Chris Sibley is a Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. Chris grew up in Lower Hutt, and completed his PhD at Victoria University of Wellington in 2005. Chris founded the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) in 2009. The NZAVS is a nationally representative 20-year longitudinal study that assesses change and stability in the personality, social attitudes, values and health outcomes of roughly 20,000 New Zealanders each year.

Lack of enrolments in Commerce degrees for Maori and previous research conducted by Carla Houkamau and Chris Sibley served as the impetus for this project. In several papers, Houkamau and Sibley have used the MMM-ICE to correlate dimensions of Māori identity with social, economic and health related outcomes. This early work indicates that the key to Māori advancing economically lies in addressing important cultural differences in what Māori people value, their notions of wealth and security, and also the possibilities they perceive are available to them as Māori.  

Who is doing the study?

Why use a self-report questionnaire?

We know that the use of data collection techniques such as surveys have been criticised.

Māori have also criticised surveys at times because they wrestle complex ideas and experiences into boxes and this is not consistent with a Māori world view which is more holistic. For many, answering questions that appear to force a choice to define oneself or respond using only one of the categories in the survey is frustrating.

We agree that surveys are not ideal and sometimes the questions can seem a bit strange, however, they are important tools for researchers.

Māori are a diverse population and attitudes vary regionally. Rather than having to rely upon anecdotes or observations about small groups of Māori, we can use the survey method and random sampling to ensure that we have a truly representative and unbiased picture of it.

Accurate portraits of the thoughts and sentiments of Māori society are not easy to come by. It is almost impossible by just watching people or interviewing small groups of individuals. To comprehend mass perspectives, researchers need tools that allow us to measure attitudes, beliefs, values and perspectives and surveys are one of these tools.

Measures have been in place to ensure the survey measures what is really important. All of the items in our survey have been tested to ensure they measure what they are meant to measure.

It is also important to emphasise we have used a mixed methods design, with the survey as stage one of data collection. In the first phase, Carla Houkamau and Manuka Henare interviewed 25 Māori business leaders to identify the key issues that should be explored in relation to Māori economic values. We also conducted a large scale literature review on all of the ideas which have been written about Māori and economic development. We also piloted this survey with a group of Māori respondents prior to administering this nationwide.

So, as you can see, we didn’t arbitrarily include items. Every single question in that survey is there for a reason. 

Why is the postal questionnaire in English and not Te Reo?

We want to reach as many people as possible in this study.

In order to complete this survey in Te Reo Māori you would need to have excellent fluency in Te Reo. Research (like Te Kupenga and the Census) shows that about 50,000 (11%) of Māori can speak Te Reo Māori well or very well; that is, they could speak about  many things or almost anything in Māori.

That means about 1 in 10 people who identify as Māori could probably fill this survey out in Te Reo.

In our view, we decided that since the bulk of people speak English, we would use an English language survey.

We have, however, had the survey and participant information sheets translated into Te Reo Māori – and if you want to complete the survey in Te Reo you can do that online. You can read a version of both this information sheet and the full questionnaire in Te Reo Māori online at:

We apologise if you do not like the English version but we hope you will understand that we want to make our survey accessible to the majority of people who identify as Māori. 

Why is the postal questionnaire in English and not Te Reo?

Some of the questions are pretty personal – why do you ask things like that?

We know that responding to questions that ask about personal matters might cause discomfort for some people. It is important to ask questions that are personal.

Some people may think personal questions are irrelevant or possibly intrusive. A person's point of view will be influenced by many things such as their life experiences, background or challenges they may face from day-to-day. All the factors we ask about (age, gender, health, personality and relationships) collectively figure into your lifestyle and personal preferences. These things are a major factor in determining your values and priorities – as well as your economic choices. If, at any time, you don’t want to answer any of the questions you do not have to. What you do and do not respond to is totally up to you.

Please bear in mind that we have conducted nationwide surveys before and have learnt that some items people perceive neutrally, others might dislike. We have trialled the survey prior to release and received good feedback on the content.

Despite these efforts some people may have concerns with specific questions on the survey – either the wording, or their applicability to different people who identify as Māori.  We respect and appreciate feedback, and will do everything we can to take concerns into consideration.  

Some of the questions are pretty personal – why do you ask things like that?

Some of the questions don't make sense or seem strangely worded

We spent about six months researching the content of the survey and drafting it. We also piloted the survey and had it peer reviewed. We also submitted the survey for ethical review and removed several questions that we deemed less important and perhaps somewhat controversial.

Survey items need to be written a certain way in order to make sure we get valid responses.

It is important you don’t ask people questions directly (because it can influence the way that they answer). We also include measures from other surveys so that we can compare our data and make sure that our survey is accurate. Surveys like this are infrequent so we have included as many items as possible.

Some people get frustrated because they cannot see their answers in the list of options provided. Developing a compact list of responses is the hardest part of writing a survey. In the end, we did the best we could, because we couldn't anticipate every possible response you might want to give. We know that people’s experience is too complex to fit into your multiple-choice questions, and that’s why we will interpret the data from this survey carefully and compare it to what we have learnt through our interviews, experience and what is in the literature around economic development.

Obtaining truthful answers to sensitive questions can be a balancing act. We sometimes have to avoid asking questions directly and we need to ask questions in different ways more than once in order to extract consistent answers about specific issues.

Surveys can be a little different from regular conversations. In a conversation, we can always ask the other person to clarify what they mean. In surveys, we can’t. In surveys, unlike conversations, there are no opportunities for follow-up questions. All we have to go on is what’s written in the survey. That means we have to be very blunt and ask things in ways that you might not say to people face-to-face. 


Some of the questions don't make sense or seem strangely worded

How would you say this research benefits Māori?

Although many Māori individuals and businesses perform well in the financial and economic sectors, for the general Māori population this is not the case. Business and financial skills are vital for Māori, and strong leadership is required to develop the Māori economy. It is anticipated that the study will lead to new ways of interpreting Māori financial and economic choices. This will provide an important data source that will be used to identify specific gaps and inadequacies in our current approaches to promoting Māori economic development. 


What will you do with my survey responses?

We will aggregate the anonymous results of this survey to answer questions that will help us improve our understanding of how to promote Māori economic development. We also hope to learn more about how Māori cultural values inspire Māori economic behaviour and how that is being manifested for different iwi and individuals throughout New Zealand.

What will you do with my survey responses?

How do you protect my privacy?

Protecting our member’s privacy is a priority for us. We take great precautions to secure all the information you provide for us. All personal details are encrypted and stored separately from questionnaire data.

Only Dr Carla Houkamau, Professor Chris Sibley and trusted research assistants working on the MIFAS in secure conditions have access to participants' contact details. Participants’ contact details are used solely for the purposes of contacting them to continue their participation each year and to provide them with information and feedback about research findings from the MIFAS.


Is the MIFAS affiliated or funded by any political organisations or corporate or government bodies?

No, it is not. The MIFAS is a university-based, scientific not-for-profit study.

The MIFAS is not affiliated or funded by any political organization or government body. Our study is independent of government and corporate interests. Results and publication of all MIFAS data are also independent of any specific funding agency, corporate or government body. Research reports using anonymous data from the study may be requested for the purposes of not-for-profit social and health research in New Zealand.

(You can read our funding statement in the next paragraph of the FAQ).


How is the MIFAS funded?

The full list of all funding we have received for the MIFAS is as follows:

The MIFAS was originally funded by a Marsden Fund grant awarded to Carla Houkamau, Chris Sibley and Manuka Henare. This allowed us to conduct the first wave of the study. 

The MIFAS is currently supported by a grant from Ngā Pae o Te Māramangata, the Māori Centre of Research Excellence, hosted by the University of Auckland.  

Our funders have no role in MIFAS study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of scientific reports or manuscripts for publication using MIFAS data.


What are the ethics approval details for the MIFAS?

The MIFAS is reviewed every three years by the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee. Our current ethics approval statement is as follows: The Maori Identity and Financial Attitudes Study is approved by The University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee from 16-May-2016 to 16-May-2022. Protocol 017154. 

For ethical concerns about the project, please contact: The Chair, University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland. Phone 09-373-7599, ext 83711. Email: