Merata Kawharu is a graduate of The University of Auckland (BA in Social Anthropology and Māori Studies and Post-Graduate Diploma in Business (Administration)) and of Oxford University (DPhil in Social Anthropology).
As a Rhodes Scholar she undertook research on kaitiakitanga. Since completing her doctorate in 1998, she has undertaken research projects for various Treaty claimant groups and the private sector and has been a consultant to the U.N and to UNESCO. She was a member of the NZ Historic Places Trust Board and Māori Heritage Council; the New Zealand Rhodes Committee; a Treaty claims advisor and member of other local committees. She is Director of Research at the James Henare Māori Research Centre at The University of Auckland, and an Associate Professor of Research at Otago University. She has published two edited books (on Treaty and resource management issues, one of which was shortlisted in the Montana Book awards), another book (Tahuhu Korero which won the Te Reo Māori section of the Māori book awards in 2010), along with several treaty reports and journal articles. She was awarded the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori education in 2012.