‘Engineered to remove right of our people’: Iwi leaders critical of Govt over Te Aka Whai Ora timeline

The Iwi Chairs Forum has hit out at the coalition government’s timeline to disestablish the Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora, after the Crown filed a memorandum with the Waitangi Tribunal announcing it will introduce legislation to Parliament as early as Tuesday.

“There has been no communication of what the alternative will be, there has been no engagement with our whānau, hapū and iwi hauora providers on the alternative,” Iwi Chairs Forum Pou Tangata co-chair Rahui Papa said Friday.

Papa said the Crown’s actions are dishonourable and a contemporary breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“This was engineered to remove the right of our people to be heard before the Waitangi Tribunal. The claimants were granted this urgent hearing, which was set to take place on 29 February 2024,” he said.

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a sacred covenant involving two peoples and we need to all uphold and honour this relationship. We should have the right to be heard on matters that we believe are contrary to Te Tiriti,” Papa said, reiterating the statement made to the government at the Iwi Chairs Forum in February.

“It’s time this coalition government stopped pointing the finger at the previous government and provided Aotearoa New Zealand with their roadmap,” he said.

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti said the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora is part of the government’s 100-day plan and is not based on the timeline of the urgent hearing.

“Timing for the introduction of this legislation has not been set based on a Waitangi Tribunal hearing timeline - it simply reflects the 100-day plan concluding by 8 March,” he said.

“We acknowledge the concerns and energy the claimants and interested parties have invested in bringing their claim to the Tribunal, and the work of the Tribunal which is still in progress.

“After the legislation comes into effect, the Waitangi Tribunal will again have jurisdiction to consider a claim.”

In a decision released on Friday evening, the Tribunal said if the government’s bill was tabled prior to completion of the hearing it would continue with its inquiry once the bill was passed, an RNZ report said.