Responses to cultural diversity in nursing need to consider the theory and practice developments of the profession, whilst also responding to broader social and historical process that prevent marginalised groups from utilising universal health services. A combination of approaches is suggested in this paper to meet these two imperatives. Cultural safety is one indigenous New Zealand nursing approach derived in response to inequalities for Maori, whereas cultural competence is an imported paradigm derived from a multicultural context. Furthermore, research and dialogue are required to examine points of complementarity and tension. This paper offers a beginning for this process.