Home for Māori starts with the ancestral home-place: important to Māori cultural identity. Home-place links are reinforced by physical associations with land, whakapapa, proximity to extended family, experience of te reo, and the importance of the marae. Home is about whānau, whenua and whakapapa. However, nearly 85% of Māori in New Zealand live in urban areas: a small proportion of whom are mana whenua, who may have remaining, or regained ancestral land. This latter aspect has enabled exemplar urban papakāinga developments in Auckland and Wellington. There are also increasing examples of rural papakāinga, where Māori have returned to their ancestral land to build housing. Ironically this trend, and the hard won successes, are the result of urban homelessness, or the struggle to survive with impossible rental payments. While there are complex reasons for homelessness, Māori are most affected and as income disparities and housing costs increase this is likely to continue.
Cultural understanding is important for building better homes for Māori. Many aspects of culture and building are interconnected, and this is important for connectedness to place as home. The rhythm of the natural world, values, and mātauranga Māori are emphasised by a number of writers and there are several publications that consider Māori place-based values, and their relationship to urban planning and low impact design, which authors consider are matters which should be understood ahead of building houses. Undertaking research using Kaupapa Māori methodology is also developing as a means to understand environment and development for Māori from a Māori perspective.
Design for Māori housing and the recent exemplars from North America provide a range of ideas of how sustainable and energy efficient buildings can be designed to respond to indigenous cultures. Māori still maintain mobile life-styles, which need to be taken into account in building size, flexibility and planning. Innovative building materials and systems are being developed by Māori, for Māori. Health and housing is a theme which permeates much of the literature, indicating that warm, dry uncrowded housing which support Māori values, including whānau and community contact, is of particular importance for hauora.