4 Mar 2023

Rongoā experts fear crackdown in Therapeutics Products Bill

5:00 pm on 4 March 2023
Rongoā Māori (Tonics made from native plants)

Rongoā Māori (tonics made from native plants). Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

A Northland rongoā expert is expecting to see a large number of submissions against traditional Māori healing methods being included in the Therapeutics Products Bill.

It follows work to create what the government calls a better system to protect rongoā Māori in law.

But rongoā Māori experts fear putting it in the bill would result in the tradition being treated like how it was in the Tohunga Suppression Act.

The Therapeutic Products Bill aims to ensure products are safe, but it will also regulate how products are made, tested, promoted and exported.

Tohe Ashby said he met with many who practise rongoā Māori on Waitangi Day and they all want it to stay in its own realm.

"All the Rongoā practitioners that I know of that stick with it, that work with it, there's a lot of grievances for it going into the therapeutics bill. They all agree that the rongoā needs to stand alone. That's happening right around with all our rongoā practitioners.

He said there are a lot of Ngāpuhi organisations who also do not support rongoā going into the bill either.

Wai262 claimants hope the kanohi ora strategy will help protect rongoā and keep it out of the Therapeutics Products Bill.

The descendants of Wai262 claimants are creating a legislation framework with working protection mechanisms on the use of taonga and mātauranga Māori.

Ashby said the next generation is now carrying on the work of their tupuna to keep rongoā out of the bill.

"That was made up of those claimants that put that statement to protect our taonga tohe," said Ashby.

"Now all those claimants have passed on, but however their people have come onboard to keep this going. At the moment we're working closely with the Crown to show how we can navigate around those relationships with the crown."

Submissions on the bill close on 5 March.

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