Dr Tahu Kukutai


Qualifications: BA(Hons) MSocSc Waikato, MA PhD Stanford

Research Interests

Dr Kukutai specialises in Māori and Indigenous population research and leads the NIDEA research programme Te Para One E Tū Mai Nei: Māori and indigenous futures.

Her research spans a broad range of population topics from iwi /tribal demography and indigenous data sovereignty, to Māori-migrant relations and the impacts of colonisation on Indigenous health. She has undertaken commissioned work for numerous iwi entities, Māori organisations, and government policy agencies.

Much of her research uses mixed methods and involves working with other social scientists in Aotearoa and internationally. Current projects include: Counting our Tūpuna: Colonisation and indigenous survivorship in Aotearoa NZ (Marsden Fund); Indigenous data sovereignty: Enduring aspirations in a digital age (Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga); Indigenous health in transition (Swedish Research Council, PI: AProf. Per Axelsson); and Capturing the diversity dividend in Aotearoa New Zealand (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: PI: Prof. Jacques Poot & Prof. Paul Spoonley).

In addition to her work in Māori and Indigenous demography, Tahu leads the Ethnicity Counts? project which studies how governments around the world count and classify populations by ethnic-racial criteria and citizenship status. She has published widely on this topic, as well as on census methodologies, with Dr Victor Thompson (Rider University, USA). They are currently writing a book examining how and why state practices of ethnic-racial and civic enumeration have changed over the past 30 years.

About Me

Tahu is from the Waikato town of Ngāruawāhia and belongs to Ngāti Tīpā, Ngāti Mahanga, Ngāti Kinohaku, Ngāti Ngawaero and Te Aupōuri iwi. She has degrees in History and Demography from the University of Waikato, and a PhD in Sociology from Stanford University. Tahu is Vice-President of the Population Association of New Zealand Council, is a founding member of Te Mana Raraunga, the Māori data sovereignty network, and serves on the Royal Society Te Aparangi Council, and the Social Policy Research and Evaluation Unit Whānau Reference Group. Dr Kukutai was the inaugural recipient of the University of Waikato early career researcher award and was appointed a World Social Science Fellow in 2014.


Maori health; Maori identity; population studies; social science research; migration; census; ethnic classification; ethnic inequalities; indigenous demography; iwi demography.

Recent Publications

  • Kukutai, T. (2018). Whānau and whakapapa, wellbeing and trends. In Toi Tū Te Whānau, Toi Tū Te Kāwai Whakapapa: A Workshop on Whānau and Whakapapa for Public Policy. Conference held at Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Kukutai, T. (2018). (Keynote) Māori data sovereignty. In DataSummit'18: Informed decision-making through the ethical use of data. Conference held at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Kukutai, T. (2018). (Invited) Māori data sovereignty and the National Research Information System. In NRIS Funder Researcher Working Group, Wellington, New Zealand.

  • Kukutai, T. (2018). (Invited) Data and wellbeing in a digital age: The case of indigenous data sovereignty. In International Network for Government Science Advice 3rd Biennial Conference (INGSA): Science Advice for a Changing World. Conference held at Tokyo, Japan.

Find more research publications by Tahu Kukutai

Papers I Teach

Research Supervised

Dr Kukutai teaches undergraduate and Honours-level papers in Population Studies and Demography and contributes to undergraduate courses in History and Māori studies. She provides supervision across a wide range of disciplines.

Current students:   


Patrick Broman (PhD, Demography). In pursuit of the ‘we’: Analysing demographic ‘New Zealandness’ (Chief supervisor).

Prabin Shakya (PhD, Demography). Premarital sexual behaviour of adolescents in Nepal (Chief supervisor).

Janet Amey (PhD, Demography). Health status in a population in regional New Zealand: The relative contributions of demography and primary care service delivery (Chief supervisor).

Moana Rarere (PhD, Demography). Māori fertility patterns and whānau formation in the 21st century (Chief supervisor).

Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear (Dual PhD: Demography, University of Waikato; Sociology, University of Arizona). Data for sovereignty: Counting and classifying tribal identity (Chief supervisor).


Karleen Puriri (MBA). Opportunities for Waikato-Tainui to access and use digital data streams to progress tribal strategic priorities.

Delwyn Abraham (MBA). An ecosystem approach to intergenerational wealth creation for Tūrangawaewae marae.

Previous students:

Alison Green (PhD, Māori and Pacific Development).  Mātauranga Māori in sexual and reproductive health policy in New Zealand: Lessons from a comparative policy study.

Mandy Yap (PhD, Economics, Australian National University). In pursuit of culturally relevant and gender-sensitive indicators of wellbeing: A Yawuru case study in operationalizing the 'recognition space'.

Alison Day (Masters, Demography). Projecting future dementia numbers in New Zealand.

Maraea Mullane-Ronaki (Masters, Demography). Indigenizing the national census? A global study of the enumeration of Indigenous peoples from 1985 to 2013.

Todd Nachowitz (PhD, Political Science & Public Policy). Towards a theory of deep diversity: Immigration, multicultural policy and the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.

Patrick Broman (Masters, Demography). Making sense of the census: Counting and classifying ethnicity in Oceania, 1965-2014.

Moana Rarere (Masters, Demography).  The determinants of tribal population growth in the New Zealand Census, 1991 - 2006.

Contact Details

Name  Extn.  Username  Room  Department
Kukutai, Prof Tahu 4162 tahuk K.3.04A National Institute Demographic Economic

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