Interest in how knowledge is constructed in multiethnic, multi-lingual and multi-faith communities is gaining momentum in countries such as New Zealand as they become more diverse. In turn, this provides an opportunity for new and innovativeresearch approaches that de-centre hegemonic discourses. This paper describes some key issues and challenges that could shape the development of appropriate and effective health research frameworks for improving the health of the diverse population groups in Aotearoa/New Zealand.Drawing on health and education research policy documents, the paper highlights the complex configuration and reworking of ethnicity, nationalism and belonging in New Zealand, in both historical and modern contexts. It suggests that an ethnic research agenda can benefitfrom the experience of Ma¯ori and Pacific people’s research in terms of walking a tightrope between addressing needs and avoiding deficiency, and balancing universal and particular research agendas. Processes that can be incorporated into aresearch study, such as consultation, enhancing self-determination and building capacity, focusing on community benefits, developing cross-cultural skills and incorporating alternative indicators of research quality, can assist in developing findingsthat are robust and useful to all stakeholders. However, incorporating such strategies into research with ethnic communities requires resourcing, institutional support and strategic leadership. Lastly, this paper contributes to the growing body ofresearch on ‘decolonising methodologies’ that move beyond cultural deficit models and the building of theoretical frameworks that draw on a range of standpoints, conceptual tools and worldviews.