National | Māori

Death day for Maori Health Authority

Government axes Te Aka Whai Ora

It looks like it’s the beginning of the end for the controversial Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora, with a bill to disestablish the authority to be tabled in Parliament today.

The disestablishment of the authority is part of the 100-day plan of the new coalition government, with all three partners signalling as such in their manifestos.

According to the managing director of Te Kōhao Health in Hamilton, Lady Tureiti Moxon, it’s an incredible loss for Māori health.

“I’m saddened by the fact that this government has continued to go ahead and submit the bill to Parliament.”

Te Aka Whai Ora began its life in 2022, following major changes to the New Zealand health system that included the dissolution of the district health board system into Te Whatu Ora-Health New Zealand.

Moxon says Te Aka Whai Ora represented a new way of providing health services to Māori and she says it’s a return to a system that has continually failed Māori for generations.

“Te Aka Whai Ora was that response to the needs of Māori, to the inequities that Māori are faced with, and to the fact that we are dying of preventable diseases.”

“It doesn’t matter which government is doing it or which government is in power. The health statistics of Māori, the health of Māori, have never changed.”

Former associate health minister and key architect of Te Aka Whai Ora, Peeni Henare, was scathing in his attack on the coalition government’s decision and, in particular, the new health minister, Dr Shane Reti.

“Having used misinformation about Te Aka Whai Ora to get elected, Dr Reti should be ashamed to be playing politics with the lifespan of Māori. More than 60 organisations, including the Cancer Society, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine, have asked the coalition government to abandon its plans to disestablish the Māori Health Authority.”

Bill to stifle urgent Waitangi Tribunal claim

The introduction of the bill to Parliament will impact an urgent Waitangi Tribunal claim that Moxon and others have put forward.

Claimants say that dissolving Te Aka Whai Ora would mean “that Māori will continue to be particularly impacted by racism and stereotyping in primary healthcare, and experience a significantly lower standard of health, including significantly shorter lives than non-Māori.”

Green MP Huhana Lyndon says it’s an outrage.

“Today is day one of the recolonisation of hauora Māori in Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

“We stand outraged that this government would send us back to the future.”

Henare says disestablishing Te Aka Whai Ora ahead of an emergency Waitangi Tribunal hearing is not only hasty but also goes against the treaty and the advice of experts.

“Rushing through the dissolution of Te Aka Whai Ora is evasive and cowardly, and it ignores steps put in place by generations to ensure governments are held to account for Māori health.”

What will happen to the claim?

The claim is to be heard over coming days. Moxon says that with the tribunal unable to consider issues currently before Parliament, it’s unclear as to where to go next.

“We were told four days out from the hearing that they were going to do this, and two days out from the hearing, they are submitting it.”

“I think it’s a sad day for Te Tiriti o Waitangi in terms of our partnership.”