Whakatau 2023 | Tariana Turia

Dame Tariana Turia believes more can be accomplished for Māori health under National

National has made it clear it has plans to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora. Dame Tariana Turia says she would rather see funding being given directly to iwi to enable iwi to resource their own health needs.

“Because in all the years that I’ve worked in the health sector, I’ve never seen the change that we needed,” Turia said.

" I would definitely support whānau, hapu and iwi having their own resource so they get bulk funding to do so much for a population. You know, if you take Ratana for instance, where you’ve got a settled population, then they should be funded to do their own. I mean, nobody knows their people better than themselves.”

When Turia was associate health minister from 1999 to 2004, the Māori health directorate was powerful and He Korowai Oranga – Māori Health Strategy was established, she said.

National’s health spokesman Shane Reti has said a Māori health directorate within the ministry would be strategic and not operational. Iwi-Māori partnership boards would be the regional operational entities.

“Personally, I believe that the money should go as close as possible to the people,” Turia said. “You know, we’ve got to learn to be an authority to ourselves and not for other people, to be having authority over us. And I think it’s really important that our people are really clear about what it is that we need to be doing for ourselves. Or do we always want to beholden to a government or someone else?”

Key, English ‘amazing to work with’

Turia believes that more was accomplished for Māori health working with a National government.

“I have to be honest and say that John Key and Bill English were amazing to work with. They didn’t want to manage us, they wanted to know what we wanted for ourselves. I liked the freedom to be., I’ve never liked to be under somebody. They were more lateral thinkers, more believing in people to do for themselves. I really liked them.”

And Turia is happy to see a change in government.

“Labour’s a very interesting animal. You know. It wants to keep everybody in the same boat. And thinks that if they treat everybody the same everything will come out fine. And they don’t take into account the differences in the way people view things. For a party that actually enjoyed the Māori vote for so many years, they learned nothing. All they learned was to try and have more authority over us.”

Te Aka Whai Ora was established following recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal and an independent Health and Disability System Review. The tribunal’s Hauora report said the primary healthcare framework failed to recognise and properly provide for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake of hauora for Māori.