Waitangi Tribunal orders priority inquiry into scrapping of Māori Health Authority

Despite the bill to disestablish the Māori Health Authority having been passed through Parliament, the Waitangi Tribunal has ruled the matter is not over and agreed to a priority inquiry to be heard on the matter later this year.

Lead claimants Lady Tureiti Moxon and Janice Kuka, who filed the Wai 3307 Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) Urgent Claim, have been notified their claim meets the criteria for a ‘Priority Inquiry’ to be scheduled for October 2024, subject to the tribunal panel’s availability.

The Waitangi Tribunal grants priority inquiry hearings in exceptional cases at its discretion. The scrapping of the Te Aka Whai Ora and the process and methodology the coalition Government adopted will be heard as part of the existing Wai 2575 Health Services & Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry timetabling.

“What the tribunal said in their Oranga Tamariki (Section 7AA) Urgent Inquiry Report and Wai 2915 Report, He Pāharakeke, he Rito Whakakīkīnga Whāruarua released three years ago in 2021 is very relevant to our matter. It is crystal clear,” says co-lead claimant Lady Tureiti Moxon, chair of the National Urban Māori Authority and managing director of Te Kōhao Health.

“Specifically, the ‘fundamental article 2 rights reserved to Māori of tino rangatiranga’.”

In the context of dis-establishing Te Aka Whai Ora, both claimants say Māori will suffer significant and irreversible prejudice as a result. They agree with the earlier findings by the Waitangi Tribunal on the Government when it said: “The Government’s singular focus on implementation of a commitment made in one of the coalition agreements has caused it to disregard its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, and this needs to be corrected before proceeding further.”

The repeal has caused uncertainty and concern in the health sector, particularly amongst Māori providers given the impact of the new legislation on Māori rights that the claimants have filed in evidence that shows.

“The Government doesn’t have an alternative plan that we can see. So, the knock-on effect is we’re still in the dark about what the plan is for Māori health. I feel there is widespread confusion,” says co-lead claimant Janice Kuka, chair of Turuki Health Care and managing director of Ngā Mataapuna Oranga.

“What we have is a health system that is floundering because it has no sense of direction at both a national and regional level. It’s an era of uncertainty around the sustainability of services. Māori providers are asking if they have a future and what services will be reduced?”

In its recent memorandum - directions the Waitangi Tribunal detailed the scope of the priority inquiry. It will investigate, “the Crown’s alternative proposals to improve Māori health in lieu of a Māori Health Authority”.

- NZ Herald