Building greater self-reliance among Maori is a major challenge for the future, Tariana Turia says.
The outgoing Maori Party co-leader and MP for Te Tai Hauauru is retiring from Parliament and will end her term as Associate Health Minister when the new Cabinet is sworn in soon.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand about her health role, Tariana Turia said she expects list candidate Maarama Fox to get enough votes today to join the party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in Parliament where she would be the co-leader.
Mrs Turia said the party's flagship Whanau Ora policy is about enabling families to determine their own future, by looking at the issues confronting them and taking responsibility for them with the support of others, if necessary.
The initial proposal for the policy came about under a Labour government, she said, but has only been rolled out under the confidence and supply agreement between the Maori Party and National over the past four or so years. Since then, though, the initiative has grown, with about 48,000 people involved, including 8500 families.
Mrs Turia said there have been significant results. "We've had many families address alcohol and drugs in their family. Families addressing the issues around violence, families taking a much stronger focus on wellness, families growing gardens together, gathering food together - there's lots of examples."
She says Whanau Ora is broader than health alone and there are education, home insulation and other initiatives.
Mrs Turia said she has tried to ensure that Whanau Ora doesn't need to be delivered by the usual service providers, but that other organisations such as family collectives, family trusts, and marae groups could also deliver services.
Such groups could do "a really important job because they won't have the infrastructure costs. They will also be more connected and engaged with those families and they will know them intimately."
The challenge for the future includes ensuring that people "make a mind-shift" towards believing they can do things for themselves, Tariana Turia says.
She admits it can be difficult for those who've "been for so long in a hand-out mode that we think other people need to do things for us. And I've seen it happen right here at home amongst extended relatives or my own, where they think they need the service provider or the social worker or whomever, or the school to provide their breakfast.
"Now, I personally don't agree with any of that. I think our first port of call is always to do what we can within our communities, within our families. I think that's our biggest challenge - to restore what I believe is a really important function of being self-determining.
"The Government at any point in time could pull the plug on food in schools and what will happen to those kids, because parents will have become used to the fact that they could send their kids off to school in the morning and not have to worry about having food for them."
Mrs Turia said she will continue political activities and guiding Whanau Ora outside Parliament. She said the party would discuss the outcome of the September election at its annual general meeting at her Whangaehu Marae at the end of this month.
Asked what the Maori Party wants from another term in coalition, Tariana Turia said she hopes that National has respect and regard for the different voice the Maori Party can bring to Parliament.
"I believe they do have that. They certainly had it when I was there, and really to listen carefully about the things that we can do."
She said she'll be watching respectfully - and won't be afraid to pick up the phone if she feels she needs to.