National | Health

MSD confirms it paid $180k to the woman dubbed ‘the tooth fairy’ and had no client complaints

Māori in Northland stand by the woman they dubbed ‘the tooth fairy’

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Northland regional commissioner Graham MacPherson has confirmed ‘tooth fairy’Claire Wihongi-Matene was paid $180,000 over three years to provide denture and dental treatment services.

Matene was registered with MSD as a supplier but MacPherson says being registered with MSD does not represent endorsement.

“Being on the suppliers register with MSD is a means of enabling payment.”

However, MSD also expects suppliers of services to meet the standards required by the relevant regulatory authorities. In this case, Matene was not a qualified dental technician, which is why she was fined $7000 on charges taken to court by the Ministry of Health.

However, Māori in Northland are standing by Matene. With no denture service in Kaikohe, the only service is in Whangārei or Kerikeri but comes with an enormous price tag. beyond many families’ reach.

Health advocate Moe Milne believes dentists became jealous of Claire Wihongi-Matene, who serviced dentures and the needs of her hapū and iwi under tikanga Māori and also charged much less than usual..

Milne says “He pai nei taku menemene atu ki te ao i runga i te mea nānā i mahi aku niho. Nō reira he tino tautoko tēnei ki a ia.”

(”I can now smile at the world because of the work she did. I am in full support of her.”)

No service available

Northland leaders were among the many supporters who were at Wihongi-Matene’s sentencing in Kaikohe courthouse.

Although Milne couldn’t make it, she supported Claire’s work.

Speaking to Te Ao News from her home in Matawaia, South of Kaikohe in Northland, she says she’s annoyed that there are no denture services in the area.

“Ko te mea tino nui me te blimmin hōhā koia anake anō te mea e mahi niho ana i roto i tēnei takiwā. Tuarua koia anake anō te mea e mahi niho ana e ea ai e te hunga i kōnei ki te utu.”

(“The biggest qualm I have is she is the only person who provides denture work in this area. Secondly, she is the only person to do it at a low cost.”)

In a statement, Te Whatu Ora told Te Ao News, “Most treatments, outside the scope of a dental/oral health therapist, can be referred to a dentist. Te Whatu Ora has never provided denture services. We engage as do those in the community with private denture providers available in Kerikeri and Whangārei.”

No record of any complaints

MSD also confirmed it had no record of any complaints.

Milne says “Whakapae ana ahau ko tera te puhaehae a ratonga nei i timata ai tenei kaupapa engari i haere au ki tera hunga. tata rima mano tara i pau i ahau ki te whakatika i aku niho, rawa atu kia tika. Haere atu ki a Claire e hia nga haerenga tika pai mai.”

(”I believe this all started because dentist services became jealous. I did go to them first, it cost me $5000, and it wasn’t done properly. Once I started going to see Claire, she was able to fix my dentures.”)

Since the court case, a givealittle page has raised almost $10,000.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said, “We are satisfied that prosecution was appropriate in this case, and the ministry is satisfied that this was recognised by the court.

While the Ministry of Health was the prosecuting agency in this case, it does not administer dental technician registrations. There are several pathways to registration with the Dental Council.

These are outlined here: Dental technicians » Dental Council (