Atareta Poananga

Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kauwhata, Te Whānau a Apanui, Rangitāne

1952 -

Atareta Poananga was born in Whangarei and was educated in New Zealand, Syria and Israel. Poananga graduated with a B.A. in Political Studies in 1974 and an M.A. in Political Studies in 1976. In 1977 she became the first Māori woman diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She continued in this position until her dismissal in 1982 which was upheld as invalid in the Court of Appeal in 1986. Poananga has worked in the Trade Union Movement, iwi development and politics in both Ngapuhi and Ngāti Porou. In 1995 she graduated with an LL.B and is currently working as a lawyer. She has been a part-time lecturer at the Department of Māori Studies and in the Faculty of Law at Auckland University and is involved in establishing a Ngāti Porou Community Law Centre. She lectures, present conference papers and holds workshops on colonisation and decolonisation for Māori people throughout the country. She is involved with others in articulating and promoting constitutional change for Māori. Poananga writes non-fiction articles, reviews and conference papers. She had articles published in the PSA Journal in 1982 analysing her dismissal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the National Business Review in the late 1980s concerning political options for Māori.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation with Atareta Poananga 16 Aug. 1998.


  • "The road back to Aotearoa." Pat Hohepa and Atareta Poananga. New Outlook 10 (May/June 1984): 29-31. Rpt. in Te Hikoi Ki Waitangi 1984. Otara, N.Z.: Waitangi Action Committee, Aug. 1984. 27-31.
  • Hohepa and Poananga write a discourse on the issues and implications raised through the Hikoi ki Waitangi of Jan-Feb 1984. They provide a history of the Kotahitanga movement and write of the significance of the formal welcome to the Kotahitanga at Turangawaewae, home of the Kingitanga, and the subsequent hikoi, in uniting ‘in a common kaupapa (objective) the various confederation, tribal, political and generational groupings in Māori society’ as well as the different political parties, pan-Māori groups, religious leaders and many Pakeha groups.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Māori Nationalism." ANZUS Conf. Melbourne, Austral. 1986.
  • In this paper Poananga states that the ‘political pathway for Māori, in terms of sovereignty, is built on a sense of cultural identity which is Māori nationalism’ and she links this with the nationalist struggles of indigenous people worldwide towards their own determination.
  • "Orientalism and Mana Wahine Motuhake." Māori Studies Department, Auckland U, Nov. 1994.
  • Using the analysis of Edward Said, Poananga analyses Ngāti Porou women.
  • "Succession: Tikanga Māori and Pakeha Law." 1994.
  • In this paper Poananga discusses the law of succession in the legal system and contends that it does not allow tikanga Māori to operate in its own terms. She advocates Māori creating Māori law, processes and systems.
  • "Colonisation and decolonisation: political pathways for Aotearoa." Lecture and conference paper presented in various contexts since July 1995.
  • Poananga states that this was the beginning of her thinking on the choice for Māori of either allowing the Crown to continue to govern and the reform of that system, or Māori charting their own form of government. Essentially she is providing the options that are facing Māori and giving the political theory of those choices.
  • "Constitutional change or reform." "Political options and the issue of constitutional reform or change." "Constitutional Change: we govern ourselves." Hirangi Hui. Apr. 1996. No further details.
  • Three papers presented by Moana Jackson, Pat Hohepa and Atareta Poananga at the Hirangi Hui in April, 1996.
  • "Māori and the Māori Justice System: Towards a Ngāti Porou Justice System." Māori and Criminal Justice Conf. July 1998. No further details.
  • In this paper Poananga states that Māori ‘must move towards the establishmnet of our own justice system and that there is no point in borrowing, replicating or co-opting Western values and forms of justice.’
  • Reviews

  • An Anarchic Review Of The Film ‘The Māori’ (Te Māori). Unpublished manuscript, 1982.
  • In this typed manuscript Poananga writes a strongly-worded critique of the processes involved in the making of a 20-minute film on the Māori by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She examines the assumptions made in the film, noting the perpetuation of the myth of good race relations in New Zealand.
  • "The Matriarch: Takahia Wahine Toa: Trample on Strong Women: Part One." Rev. Witi Ihimaera’s The Matriarch. Broadsheet 145 (1986): 24-28.
  • "The Matriarch: Takahia Wahine Toa: Trample on Strong Women: Part Two." Rev. Witi Ihimaera’s The Matriarch. Broadsheet 146 (1987): 24-29.


  • Corrigan, Diane and Pat Hohepa. "Death of an Honorary White." Broadsheet 138 (1986): 13-19.
  • An interview with Atareta Poananga.
  • Dann, Christine. "Atareta Poananga." Broadsheet 92 (1981): 34-35.
  • Legat, N. "Atareta Poananga and Te Ahi Kaa - what do Māori nationalists want?" Metro 5.57 (Mar 1986): 44-58.
  • Paterson, Mike. "Target Seen For Tribes." Te Iwi o Aotearoa Christmas (1987): 15.
  • About a visit to indigenous Americans in North America by Pat Hohepa and Atareta Poananga.
  • Rankine, Jenny. "Māori Women and the Ministry." Broadsheet 132 (1985): 26.
  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox, 1991. 23, 25.