Cloud agreement enables more sustainable innovation with Māori land

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

Te Tumu Paeroa becomes anchor tenant of Microsoft New Zealand’s hyperscale cloud region, led by a pioneering Māori data sovereignty framework.    

Te Tumu Paeroa, the Office of the Māori Trustee, has today become the latest anchor tenant of the forthcoming Microsoft New Zealand cloud region. The agreement aims to better enable Te Tumu Paeroa to help landowners to connect more deeply with their whenua and enable faster recovery from major weather events, as well as support innovation on key issues such as climate change. The shift is underpinned by Te Tumu Paeroa’s landmark Māori data sovereignty framework, to guide how this taonga (treasure) should be managed in the cloud. 

Currently, the Māori Trustee administers as trustee or agent approximately 1,800 Māori land trusts and other Māori entities across Aotearoa, this is about one third of all Māori Land Trusts. Te Tumu Paeroa is the office that supports the Māori Trustee in this role.  

Administration and governance of Māori land is complex, working on behalf of over 100,000 owners with multiple land interests, who often don’t live near the land. As well as acting for the landowners on statutory matters including health and safety and sustainability requirements, Te Tumu Paeroa manages the finances for trusts, manages leases and contracts, and holds trust hui to share information about the land with owners and trustees, and discuss opportunities for land development. 

“We’re both a kaitiaki for the land, and for all the data relating to it. In Te Ao Māori, data carries the mana (identity), tapu (sacredness) and mauri (spirit) of the person and land it represents – and once you acknowledge that, it changes the way you handle and manage the data. For that reason, our preference is to keep taonga for which we are a kaitiaki onshore, and not to send it overseas as other taonga have been,” says Ruth Russell, Kaitautari Pārongo Matua | Chief Information Officer for Te Tumu Paeroa.  

To date, much of the data has been kept in on-premises datacenters, but the local Azure cloud region will enable Te Tumu Paeroa to leverage Microsoft’s security, carbon-neutrality, and advanced AI technologies for the benefit of landowners. 

“We have a whakatauki (proverb): Aho roroa uaua hautū, aho popoto hautū marikaA kite with a short string is easier to control, and a kite with a long string is more difficult to control – but it benefits from the high wind. This agreement means we can have those high winds and the short string, enjoying the comfort and peace of having the data close, while being able to engage more easily with owners and support partners,” Ruth says. 

The cloud migration, supported by migration partner DDS IT, will allow Te Tumu Paeroa to collaborate more easily with other organisations using secure Microsoft tools like Dynamics365 and SharePoint, as well as provide more resiliency for critical platforms. Increased collaboration and tools to boost innovation will also help make recovery faster and support sustainable redevelopment in the event of major disasters.  

There are also plans to adopt Microsoft Copilot and other AI tools to support this mahi, including identifying sustainable and innovative uses of land, summarising vast amounts of data while also helping anticipate challenges and generate solutions. Meanwhile, new features such as interactive maps and reporting tools would help landowners engage more with their land, making this information more accessible through digital platforms. 

To guide the project, a working group at Te Tumu Paeroa spent more than two years developing a robust Māori data sovereignty framework.   

“I’m impressed by how this framework helps Te Tumu Paeroa ensure all of their data is respectful of tikanga. This not only has the potential to help Māori landowners, but also Indigenous organisations globally to take advantage of the benefits and innovation that cloud offers. As one of the landowners supported by Te Tumu Paeroa myself, I’m excited to see us being able to leverage new technology and see people all over the world enabled to have stronger connections to their whenua,” says Dan Te Whenua Walker, Partner Development Manager – Australia and NZ at Microsoft.  

DDS IT also supported with a cloud migration strategy to manage the transition to the forthcoming datacenters. DDS IT Chief Executive Simon Browne believes that at its heart, this is a guardianship story. 

“What’s been astounding beyond words is the deep sense of connection between the data, the whenua and its people. Just as the move to the Azure datacenters will benefit the land by reducing the data’s carbon footprint, and the data by giving it greater resilience, better use of the data will help Aotearoa become more sustainable as well. It’s clear that Te Tumu Paeroa see themselves as the custodians of this data not only for the current owners, but for generations to come,” he says.   

Adds Ruth: “If we’re still doing our mahi in the same way once we’ve gone through the transition, we won’t have succeeded. We want to be able to take advantage of the cloud, the AI, and the modern technology for the benefit of the whenua for which we are a kaitiaki, and the people connected to it.”