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Appendix 5: Methodology for Conducting Interviews with Kaumatua Informants

Earlier this year the Maori Perspectives on Justice team conducted a range of interviews with kaumatua focusing on methods of dispute resolution in traditional and contemporary Maori society.

The objectives of these interviews were:

  • to gain insight into traditional resolution methods of Maori society;
  • to extract and encapsulate principles inherent in Maori perspectives of justice;

- to determine causes of dispute in traditional Maori society;

- to seek information as to how Maori sought fairness and justice, according to customary law.

The material from the interviews was used to illustrate statements made in the various concept papers, and provided some case studies for analysis.

Respondent Selection

The selection criteria of the kaumatua was based on selecting kaumatua who had grown up immersed in Maori tikanga, and who also had extensive knowledge and information about Maori society.

Interview Methodology

Following consultation with a Principle Adviser of the Ministry of Justice research team, an open interview methodology was selected for the interviews. The informed consent of kaumatua was obtained prior to interviewing. Interviews were conducted kanohi ki te kanohi with kaumatua. This method provided the opportunity to cover all aspects of a questionnaire, which was semi-structured and revolved around prompting answers and points from the kaumatua.


A brief questionnaire was designed around the objectives of the research. The questionnaire focused on the nature and dynamics of dispute and dispute resolution in traditional and contemporary Maori society.

Consent and Interviewing

A letter was sent to kaumatua to fully inform them about the nature and content of the research. Incorporated in this letter was information informing the kaumatua of the background, purpose, and aim of interviews as well as their rights as participants. Embodied in this letter was a request for consent to the recording of the interview with a dictaphone. The need to record these interviews were made clear in the letter, and the kaumatua were informed of their rights regarding the transcript of the interviews and their right to see the transcripts and make amendments or deletions. Arrangements were made for interviews to take place with kaumatua who agreed to participate. Pairs of the Maori Perspectives on Justice team members conducted interviews.

The interviews were conducted in the homes of the kaumatua. At first contact, the interviewers introduced themselves, then ran through a standardised consent procedure and briefing. This process enabled the kaumatua to make an informed decision about whether or not they wished to participate. The interviewers asked the kaumatua a range of points regarding their rights as participants in the interview and how their information would be managed . If the kaumatua understood all points and agreed to participate in the study they were then asked to sign the consent form.

It was more important in the process of the interviews that the questionnaire be used to prompt further discussion about each topic and theme. Each interview took approximately 1.5 - 2 hours to complete. Following the interview each interviewee was thanked for their time and whakaaro.

Data Collection

Dictaphones were used to record the interviews. Members of the Maori perspectives on Justice team transcribed the interviews. Once the transcripts were completed, they were sent to the interviewees who were asked to check, comment, and/or amend the information they provided. The transcriptions recorded accurately and precisely the information presented by kaumatua and was analysed by members of the Maori Perspectives on Justice team.

In accordance with the Ministry of Justice information management policy, the data from this research will be destroyed after two years.

Meeting On Interviewing Processes
Date: 24 February 1999

Present: Alison Chetwin, Ramari Paul, Hui Kahu.


To discuss with Alison the techniques and the ethical issues of the interviewing process.


When interviewing a person, an outline will be given about the project and what we intend to do with the information they provide us:

  • Why the study is being done;
  • How their information is to be used;
  • What will happen with the information - Emphasise to the interviewee that the information will go into a report for the Ministry.

In the initial stage of the interviewing process, the interviewee needs to be made aware that:

  • At any time they can stop the interview if they want to;
  • They can see the final outcome of the report;
  • The information they provide will be confidential;
  • We can provide them with the transcript of the interview.

When recording the interview, we must let the interviewee know that:

  • The interview will be transcribed;
  • The information will not be given to anyone other than the Maori Perspectives on Justice group;
  • The tapes will be destroyed after two years.

Our responsibilities before, during and after the interview:

  • Ask where they want to be interviewed;
  • Establish a suitable time for the interview;
  • Be friendly and respectful;
  • Make them feel comfortable,
  • let them tell us what they know;
  • Ask questions in a conversational manner;
  • Respond to the interviewee during the interview.

When recording and note-taking:

  • Take note of the distractions within the environment and move away if it is necessary;
  • Make sure the notes are eligible.

Hint: Use a shorthand notebook and write on every second line.

At the conclusion of the interview, we should give the interviewee an opportunity to raise other matters that they wish to discuss. We may also want to consider giving them a koha in return.

Letter to Interviewees

Tena ra koe i runga i nga ahuatanga o te Ao Maori tae atu ki nga mate huhua mai i tna wharuarua i tena wharuarua puta noa i te roanga o te whenua. Kati nga mate haere atu ra, haere atu ra. T na ra tatou o te Ao Tangata.


The Ministry of Justice is currently conducting a project on Maori Perspectives on Justice. This involves examining traditional Maori society and the values that governed that society. In terms of examining Maori society, we are looking specifically at traditional dispute resolution processes, focussing on how Maori maintained law and order in society and the way in which they sought justice. Part of the research in relation to this project involves interviewing people with knowledge of traditional Maori society. I would like to invite you to participate in the interview process.

The team involved in this project consists of myself as Director Maori for the Ministry of Justice, a recent graduate, Ramari Paul, and three undergraduate university students, Jason Ataera, Hui Kahu, and Te Hapimana Te Kani. There will be two people involved in the interviewing process at any one time. Professor Wharehuia Milroy and Wiremu Kaa are guiding us through the project and providing a major input into the information that we are developing.

As a result of the interviews and the research pertaining to the traditional Maori dispute resolution processes, the information will be documented as a resource paper to provide the policy analysts within the Ministry an understanding of the processes involved in resolving a dispute within traditional Maori society. Furthermore, this paper would aid the policy analysts in their involvement with Maori issues in the Justice sector.

Please find enclosed an outline of the interview process conducted by the Project team. If you have any reservations concerning this process, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Your agreement to participate in our research would be greatly appreciated. We will contact you in this regard.

Heoi ano

John Clarke
Director, Maori
Public Law Group

Maori Perspectives on Justice Disputes Resolution Information Sheet

The Ministry of Justice wishes to undertake research to ascertain how Maori resolved disputes in both traditional and contemporary society. This information will feed into the Maori Perspectives on Justice Project. The final project is intended as a resource document for the policy teams/groups of the Ministry of Justice. It may also be distributed to other government agencies or members of the public if they request the document under the Official Information Act 1982.

Interviews will take place in late March and will take up to two hours. Two people from the study team will interview you if you choose to take part in the interview process. With your permission we would like to tape the interviews as well as take notes. This will ensure that the information you have provided us with will not be taken out of context.

If you take part in the study all information you provide will be confidential between you and the study team. You do not have to answer questions that you do not want to and can pull out if you decide at any stage that you do not want to be involved. We will give you the opportunity to decide on what identifying details we use when using material you provide us. You may also state whether we can use direct quotes in the final report.

Information collected about and from you during the course of the research will be stored securely at the Ministry of Justice. Identifying information will only be available to members of the project team. In line with the Ministry of Justice information management policy, research data will be destroyed after two years.

If you wish, we will provide you with a transcript of the interview to give you an opportunity to check what has been transcribed and delete any information that you do not want to be included in the report. We will send you a copy of the draft report to provide comment on, and you may also request a final copy of the report, which we expect to be completed by the end of July 1999.

For further information or queries please contact:

John Clarke Director, Maori

Ramari Paul Team Leader

Jason Ataera

Hui Kahu

Te Hapimana Te Kani

Format of Interview

Explain about the Maori Perspectives on Justice project.

Tell them the concepts we have examined and why, i.e. whakapapa, tapu, etc.

Get them to sign permission slip.

Tell them we are looking at traditional society but can refer to contemporary examples.


What were the causes of disputes?

How were disputes resolved?

What values were being protected?

In terms of justice in the Westminster system (may have to explain what this is) they use compensation, reparation, restoration, etc. What was the Maori way of seeking fairness and justice in their society?

How did Maori recognise positive contributions to society?

Maori Perspectives on Justice Interviews

This research is being undertaken to find out about dispute resolution processes in Maori society.

(Give respondent an information sheet)

Here is a copy of the research information sheet. This was sent to you with our introductory letter. The sheet contains information about this research and the interview process.

Before we can start we need to make sure you know your rights as someone who is taking part in a research project. Please answer the following questions with yes or no.

(If respondent answers yes - tick the box, then ask the next question, if the respondent answers no answer any questions they have about the issue and ask the question again) )

Have you been given information about the study?

Do you understand that you don t have to answer any questions that you don t want to, and that you can pull out of the study at any time?

Do you understand that the information you provide is confidential between the research team and yourself?

Do you understand that how you will be identified in the report is your decision?

Do you agree to take part in this research under these conditions?

Please sign this sheet to confirm your answers to these questions.

Signed _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Interviewee Thank You Letter

Tena koe e

Maori Perspectives on Justice Project

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for participating in the interview process for the Ministry of Justice s Maori Perspectives on Justice Project.

The information that has been gathered in relation to the project is vitally important for the development of policy affecting Maori within the wider justice sector. For this reason we are grateful that someone of your standing and knowledge has given us the benefit of your wisdom.

The project team thoroughly enjoyed talking with you and gaining an insight into some of your experiences. We will now be able to use the information you provided us to feed into the document.

Please find enclosed a copy of the transcript from your interview. Any identifying details of individuals and places will be changed in our report. We ask that you read through it and delete any of the information that you do not want us to use. You may also add any information as a further background to the information already provided. Once a draft of the Maori Perspectives on Justice Report has been completed, we will send you a copy.

Also please find enclosed a koha for the time you have given us in respect of this project. I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Heoi ano

John H Clarke
Director, Maori