Professor Margaret Shirley Mutu

BSc, MPhil, PhD Auckland, FRSNZ, DipTchg


Margaret Mutu is of Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whātua and Scottish descent. She is the Professor of Māori Studies at the University of Auckland where she teaches and conducts research on Māori language, tikanga (law), history and traditions, rights and sovereignty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and treaty claims against the English Crown, constitutional transformation and Māori-Chinese encounters. She holds a BSc in mathematics, an MPhil in Māori Studies, a PhD in Māori Studies specialising in linguistics and a DipTchg. She has published four books: a grammar of the `Ua Pou dialect of Marquesan (2002); the history and traditions of her hapū, Te Whānau Moana (2003); her collection of annual reviews of issues affecting Māori, The State of Māori Rights (2011); and Ngāti Kahu: Portrait of a Sovereign Nation, on the traditions, history and Tiriti o Waitangi claims of her iwi (nation), Ngāti Kahu (2017).  She has also published numerous articles and book chapters and is called on frequently by local, national and international media to provide information and expert commentary.

Margaret is the chair of her iwi parliament, Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu of the Far North and of two of her marae. She has been a mandated representative of Ngāti Kahu and of Māori in a number of national and international fora. She has three children, six grandchildren and a huge extended family.

Research | Current

  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori claims against the Crown
  • The Treaty claims settlement process and its impacts on Māori
  • Māori rights, sovereignty and constitutional transformation in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Oral traditions and histories of hapū and iwi of Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa and Te Hiku o te Ika (the Far North)
  • Translation studies
  • Māori resource management and conservation practices
  • Māori customary fisheries
  • The rating of Māori land
  • Māori-Chinese encounters
  • Māori and Polynesian linguistics

Margaret's immediate research interests are the settlement of Ngāti Kahu's claims against the Crown in order to provide Crown recognition of Ngāti Kahu power and authority, self-determination and ownership of all of their traditional territories and resources. This includes all Ngāti Kahu’s lands (including the foreshore and seabed), seas, waters, airways and minerals. Following the signing of an agreement in principle with the Crown in 2008, Margaret and a team of Ngāti Kahu researchers worked on a full description and analysis of these claims. They compiled the results into a Deed of Partial Settlement of Ngāti Kahu's treaty claims. It was published by Huia Publishers as the book Ngāti Kahu: Portrait of a Sovereign Nation: Traditions, History and Treaty Claims in 2017.

Since 2015 Margaret has been working with her colleague, Dr Tiopira McDowell, on a major Marsden-funded research project about Māori experiences and analyses of the treaty claims settlement process. It has involved conducting a very large number of in-depth interviews with claimants and negotiators around the country. A number of papers are being published along with a book containing the stories recounted in the interviews. Preliminary results, which indicate many serious and widespread problems with the current process, were delivered to National Iwi Chairs Forum in December 2017 who advised the new Labour government of the urgent need to work with Māori to reach a mutually agreeable policy and process for settling treaty claims.

Margaret’s work on Māori rights draws on the oral traditions of her ancestors of Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Whātua passed on to her by her elders and drawn on extensively for the successful claims against the Crown. These rights are recognised under tikanga Māori (Māori law) and in He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tīreni (He Whakaputanga)/Declaration of Independence (1835), Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Te Tiriti) (1840) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Her book The State of Māori Rights (Huia Publishers, 2011) reviews the on-going experiences of Māori of the violations of these rights. Her annual updates on the state of Māori rights are published by The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. 

Margaret’s interest in constitutional transformation in New Zealand follows on from her research on Māori rights. She has worked with her own hapū and other hapū and iwi from around the country in this area in order to develop the foundations for a constitution for New Zealand based on tikanga Māori, He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti and UNDRIP. She chairs, and Moana Jackson convenes the independent constitutional transformation working group, Matike Mai Aotearoa, and in 2016 they published their report He Whakaaro Here Whakaumu Mō Aotearoa: The Report of Matike Mai Aotearoa – The Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation. It has been the basis for the much longer conversation currently being conducted throughout the country on constitutional transformation. Both Margaret and Moana have delivered very large numbers of presentations on this work in hui, lectures, seminars and workshops here and overseas. The report has become required readings in a number of university and wānanga courses throughout the country and is being discussed by many Māori and non-Māori groups.

The widespread support in Māori communities and from a number of non-Māori for the work on constitutional transformation encouraged further work towards implementing the 2016 report. A first step towards constitutional transformation is the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. New Zealand adopted the Declaration in 2010. As a member of National Iwi Chairs Forum, Margaret chairs the Aotearoa Independent Monitoring Mechanism that monitors New Zealand's compliance with the Declaration. The Monitoring Mechanism provides annual reports to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and recommended that New Zealand draft a National Plan of Action to implement the Declaration. The New Zealand government agreed to do so in 2019.

The oral traditions of her ancestors are very clear in respect of Māori paramount authority and power (mana) over their lands, territories and themselves. The fact that Pākehā immigrants and then the English Crown chose to ignore this in order to take control of the country’s resources has drawn increasingly strident criticism from Māori, the Waitangi Tribunal and international bodies such as the United Nations. Margaret’s recent research has drawn together her work and that of others in this area over the past 25 years for chapters in three edited volumes on the Māori history of Aotearoa, on Indigenous Nations and on Treaty of Waitangi settlements with a fourth on critical Indigenous studies in preparation.

In the area of Māori resource management, Margaret has had a long term research interest in kaitiakitanga and a particular interest in the protection of wāhi tapu (sacred sites) from developers. Although the Resource Management Act provides protection in theory, in practice developers have still managed to destroy many wāhi tapu with devastating consequences for the hapū to whom they belong. Margaret’s research includes wāhi tapu of her own hapū as well as others in Te Taitokerau (the north) and has resulted in expert evidence provided to the courts and in book chapters.

With Professor Manying Ip, Margaret has conducted research on Māori-Chinese encounters. In particular she studied how Māori media portrayed Chinese in the 19th and 20th centuries. This resulted in a number of conference presentations and a book chapter on Māori depiction of Chinese. Her work in this area has continued as part of Ngāti Kahu's close relationship with a Chinese development company currently working on Karikari peninsula.

Teaching | Current

MĀORI 732 Rangatiratanga

Postgraduate supervision

  • Maurice Alemann: "Impact of Legislation on Māori Land in Te Taitokerau" (PhD thesis)
  • Ian Hunter: "The many faces of ai" (PhD thesis)
  • Arapera Ngaha: "Māori attitudes to non-Māori speaking the Māori language" (PhD thesis)
  • Yvonne Sutherland: "19th century letters" (PhD thesis)
  • Joe Te Rito: "The marginalisation of the indigenous peoples of the Ōmāhu area in Heretaunga" (PhD thesis)
  • Beryl Woolford: "Inter-tribal relations and land loss in the northern King Country" (PhD thesis)
  • Kepa Morgan: "Māori concepts of sustainability" (PhD thesis - advisor)
  • Sally Te Ake Nicholas: "Ko te Karāma o te Reo Māori o te Pae Tonga o Te Kuki Airani: An Aspect of the Grammar of Southern Cook Islands Māori" (PhD thesis)
  • Hinerangi Wiri: "Te Mana o ngā Wāhine Māori i ngā Take Tiriti o Waitangi" (MA thesis)
  • John Witana: "Te Ara o ngā Tūpuna" (MA thesis)


  • Fellow, Royal Society of New Zealand, 2017
  • Pou Aronui Medal, Royal Society of New Zealand, 2015 (for distinguished service to the humanities-aronui over a sustained period of time)
  • Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant, 2015-19
  • Crown Forestry Rental Trust research grants 2005-11
  • Visiting Professor, Departments of Native American Studies, Linguistics and Anthropology, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA 2009
  • Visiting Professor, Postgraduate School of International Affairs, University of Le Havre, France 2007
  • Visiting Fellow, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University 2001
  • University of Auckland Distinguished Teaching Award 1994
  • Research Intern, East-West Center, Hawai'i 1984
  • Ngarimu VC and 28th Māori Battalion Postgraduate Scholar 1984
  • University Grants Committee Postgraduate Scholar 1984


  • Head of Māori Studies 2001-2007, 2009-2013
  • Chair, Te Whare Kura Indigenous Knowedges, Peoples and Identities Research Initiative Steering Committee 2009-2013, 2014-15
  • Chair, Matike Mai Aotearoa Constitutional Transformation Working Party 2010 - on-going
  • Chair, Aotearoa Independent Monitoring Mechanism 2014 - on-going  
  • Chair, Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu 2002 - on-going
  • Chief Researcher and Negotiator, Ngāti Kahu Tiriti o Waitangi claims against the English Crown 1984 - on-going

Areas of expertise

Māori studies: language, oral traditions and histories; translation studies; Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the impact of English/European immigration and colonisation on Māori, Māori claims against the English Crown, resource ownership, management and development; Māori and indigenous rights; Māori-Chinese encounters.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Chair, Monitoring Mechanism (monitoring the New Zealand government's compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), 2014 - on-going
  • Chair, Te Whare Kura: The Indigenous Knowledges, Peoples and Identities Thematic Research Initiative Steering Committee, UoA, 2009-2013, 2014-15
  • Chair, Matike Mai Aotearoa Constitutional Transformation Working Party 2010 - on-going 
  • Member, Faculty of Arts Research Committee 2009-2013, 2014-16
  • Member, Faculty of Arts Staffing Committee 2014-16
  • Member of the editorial board of AlterNative - A Journal of Indigenous Scholarship 2009-15
  • Member, Māori Knowledge and Development Panel of the Performance Based Research Fund, Tertiary Education Commission 2003, 2006-7
  • Referee for many journals and funding agencies
  • Auditor, New Zealand Vice Chancellors' Academic Audit Unit 1995 - 2012
  • Member of a number of review teams and degree evaluation panels
  • Member, Foundation for Research Science and Technology SET Advisory Committee 2006-7
  • Director, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd 1991-6
  • Member, New Zealand Conservation Authority 1993-6
  • Chair, Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu 2002 - on-going
  • Chair, Kapehu marae, Northern Wairoa 1993 - on-going
  • Chair, Karikari marae, Far North 2004 - on-going
  • Member, National Iwi Chairs' Forum representing Ngāt Kahu 2005 - on-going
  • Representative for Ngāti Kahu and for National Iwi Chairs Forum, United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples' meetings 2015 - on-going
  • Representative for Ngāti Kahu, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues meetings 2008 - on-going
  • Chief Researcher and Negotiator for Ngāt Kahu Tiriti o Waitang claims against English Crown 1984 - on-going

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Mutu, M. (2020). Māori of New Zealand. In S. Neely, D. W. Hume (Eds.) Native Nations: The Survival of Indigenous Peoples (pp. ). Vernon, British Columbia, Canada: JCharlton Publishing. Related URL.
  • Mutu, M. (2019). The treaty claims settlement process in New Zealand and its impact on Māori. Land, 8 (10)10.3390/land8100152
  • Mutu, M., Pōpata L, Williams, T. K., Herbert-Graves Ā, Rēnata R, Cooze, J., ... Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu (2017). Ngāti Kahu: Portrait of a sovereign nation: History, traditions and Tiriti o Waitangi claims: Kia Pūmau Tonu te Mana Motuhake o ngā Hapū o Ngāti Kahu: Ngāti Kahu deed of partial settlement. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers. Pages: 420.
  • Mutu, M. S. (2016). New possibilities for our democratic future: Matike Mai Aotearoa and its proposal for constitutional transformation. Paper presented at 2016 New Zealand Political Studies Association Conference, University of Waikato. 28 November - 1 December 2016.
  • Mutu, M. S. (2016). Matike mai! Māori-led constitutional transformation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Paper presented at New Forms of Political Organisation Symposium, University of Auckland. 4 October - 4 October 2016. Related URL.
  • Mutu, M. S. (2016). Matike Mai! Māori-led Constitutional Transformation in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Paper presented at Space, Race, Bodies II: Sovereignty and Migration in a Carceral Age, University of Otago, Dunedin. 6 May - 7 May 2016. Related URL.
  • Mutu, M., & Jackson, M. (2016). He whakaaro here whakaumu mō Aotearoa: The report of Matike Mai Aotearoa - The Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation. Auckland: National Iwi Chairs Forum and Te Wānanga o Waipapa, University of Auckland.
  • Mutu, M. S. (2015). Unravelling colonial weaving. In P. Little, W. Nissen (Eds.) Stroppy old women: 52 Kiwi women, who've been around long enough to know, tell you what's wrong with the world (pp. 165-178). Auckland: Paul Little Books.


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 2, Room 206
New Zealand

Web links