iwi.nz creation story and history

In 1994 a representative of Ngāi Tahu iwi informally suggested the benefits of iwi.nz to John Houlkner of the Tuia Society: the former self- appointed only group purporting to co-ordinate activities on the NZ Internet at the time. In 1994 it would go on to suggest the creation of the Internet Society of New Zealand (ISOCNZ) 1995, now known as InternetNZ.

John Houlkner then begun the discussion on the Tuia Technical Working Group list and Don Stokes took the lead in creating the domain. It is interesting to note at this stage that Don Stokes took more abuse over the creation/existence of iwi.nz than he ever did for its actual operation. Don believed this to be fair as that was the odd accusation of “political correctness” that could be safely ignored.

Don Stokes discussed the creation with John Houlkner, and agreed that it had sufficient character to be a separate domain, but they were worried about reactions. Don discussed it with his mother (Professor, later Dame, Evelyn Stokes, who was a member of the Waitangi Tribunal). From this discussion the concern was that there should be some level of representation. In the early stage of .nz domains there were no “open” vs “moderated” dichotomy in domain name registrations. Effectively, all domains were “moderated” (manually), although the level of moderation varied – co.nz was a casual process whereas govt.nz, mil.nz et al received much more scrutiny.

There was no discussion about representation at this stage as it was in keeping with how all other second level other domains were run; the keepers of the DNS at the time tacitly moderated all domain requests, and did so internally. The idea of moderated versus unmoderated second level domains was still in the future, as was having external, representative moderators.

A brief guideline for registrations which stated that to be eligible for a .iwi.nz domain an iwi had to be a legal trust board (this excluded the majority of iwi at the time). The domain was created and sat alongside govt.nz and mil.nz out of Victoria University.

Tainui Corporation Ltd requested tainui.iwi.nz in 1996, but it was suggested by John Houlkner and Don Stokes that they talk to the trust board, as it might be more appropriate to register the commercial entity in co.nz, and leave the iwi.nz name for other purposes. Tainui Corporation took that advice, and registered tainui.co.nz instead (at the time, it was uncommon to register in more than one second level domain; cybersquatting was not yet a major thing).

Moderation of iwi.nz (as with govt.nz and mil.nz) was the responsibility of Don Stokes (although Lloyd Parkes did most of the front line DNS work, including first cuts at moderation) until 1997, and it was mainly discussing appropriateness with registrants. rejected A small number of iwi.nz requests were rejected, including the application for k.iwi.nz in 1997 which proved to be popular over the following years.

For iwi.nz, moderation was entirely internal. External help was sought if things had got complex. It is reported that only two interesting cases arose, one where someone tried to register “k.iwi.nz” (this occurred as late as 2013), and secondly when Tainui Corporation came to register but were declined as the iwi vs commercial distinction (still an issue in 2017).

.iwi.nz was considered by InternetNZ to be representative of all Māori and that it should decline the proposed maori.nz proposal. It was pointed out that iwi.nz was intended for representative organisations, and as such the proposed maori.nz would have a quite different registrant community, so no, iwi.nz wasn’t “the Māori domain.

On August 1 1999 InternetNZ (ISOCNZ) wrote a letter to the then Minister of Maori Affairs Mr Tau Henare stating that if a moderator for .iwi.nz could not be found the domain would be closed 15 September 1999 until a moderator can be located. At some stage soon after this, Aroha Mead, formerly of Te Puni Kōkiri was appointed the moderator as an interim while someone else was found. In 2001 Karaitiana Taiuru was appointed the moderator of iwi.nz by Frank March and Sue Leader after a meetign in Wellington with the two and with Aroha Mead. At the date of writing Karaitiana Taiuru is still the moderator (2017).

Karaitiana Taiuru was then the Chair of The New Zealand Māori Internet Society and used the large membership of the society to consult and support changes to ensure that iwi.nz could be more inclusive of all stakeholder Iwi including Moriori which at the time were excluded from being recognised as Iwi.

When the Domain Name Commissioner was established, formalised agreements between domain name moderators (.govt.nz, .mil.nz, .cri.nz and .iwi.nz) and the Commission were signed making the process more formal than in previous years. While in the most part this was beneficial to all moderated domain name holders and the .nz community, it was detrimental for the ability to consult with Iwi in a cultural manner that created communications.

For consultation, the Domain Name Commission introduced a formal letter which was to be sent to each Iwi organisation (the person whose name appeared in the public record of the domain name – whois) from the DNC, and required a formal response to support any changes to the moderation policy in a short time frame. This formality up to the time of writing in 2017 has stalled .iwi.nz growth and seen the domain policy become out of date with Iwi who are increasingly growing commercial entities, social and various other entities as a result of treaty settlements and investments and as a result to better represent their tribal members.

It is typical that a iwi.nz domain or any other domain for any organisation has a contact person for someone in the IT deaprtment for technical contact and someone in the accounts department for billing. It would be highly unusual for the CEO or directors to be contact people for their domain name. Likewise for Iwi, tribal leaders will not have their name associated with the iwi.nz registration.

Much of the early information above was provided by Done Stoke. The information from 2000 was based on my own recollections and e-mails.

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