The Waitangi Tribunal has announced “exceptional circumstances” have been met for an urgent inquiry into Government plans to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority.
Māori health advocates Lady Tureiti Moxon and Janice Kuka lodged the application for an urgent hearing in December on behalf of the governors, managers, staff, and Māori cared for by Māori-owned primary health organisations and Māori providers with general practitioner clinics.
Disestablishing the Māori Health Authority was a part of National’s 100-day plan, with Health Minister Dr Shane Reti describing it as a failure of “more bureaucracy”. He said the Government would instead “have a strong Māori health directorate inside the Ministry of Health”.
The Crown had earlier opposed the application for urgency in its submission, saying alternative plans would be made, although it did not know what they would be yet, a position dubbed “problematic” by the tribunal.
“Crown counsel argues that ‘there are more effective ways’ to improve health outcomes for Māori, yet concedes that the coalition Government is not in a position to articulate how,” reads the tribunal document.
“It is difficult to understand how the coalition Government can be sure that there is a more effective way to improve health outcomes for Māori without knowing what that way is.
“In Treaty terms, the disestablishment of a tino rangatiratanga-compliant model for something unknown is, on its face, prejudicial.
“We are therefore satisfied that the claimants are suffering, or will likely suffer, significant and irreversible prejudice through the proposed disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora. The grounds for urgency are made out.”
The Crown also acknowledged there had not been consultation with Treaty partners leading up to the decision to promote policy to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora.
A final decision on when any inquiry would take place has been adjourned until the Government provides more information, including when the proposed disestablishment would occur. The Crown is directed to file a memorandum by January 31.
Lady Tureiti said that merging Māori back into one system would not address inequities.
“All the experts and Crown officials agreed that Māori get lower quality care than other New Zealanders unless they are with a Māori Provider. That was why we needed transformational change. Te Aka Whai Ora was starting to raise up our Māori health solutions.”
Te Pāti Māori said in a statement that it welcomed the news of the Waitangi Tribunal’s urgent inquiry into the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora.
“We are in full support of the tribunal in their choice to ignore Crown advice and go ahead with urgency,” said co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
The decision coincides with the national hui called by Kiingi Tuuheitia at Tuurangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia.
Ngarewa-Packer said that the turnout of 10 thousand affirms that “an indigenous Māori uprising is occurring in Aotearoa”.
“The Government have declared political war on the indigenous state. The resistance is only just beginning.”