20 Feb 2024

Waitangi Tribunal to launch urgent inquiry into scrapping of Māori Health Authority

4:00 pm on 20 February 2024
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Veteran Māori health advocate Lady Turieti Moxon says the government's assessment that Te Aka Whai Ora was performing poorly on health outcomes is wrong. Photo: Supplied

The Waitangi Tribunal will go ahead with an urgent inquiry into the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority.

Plans to scrap the authority in December 2023 by the coalition government were challenged by Māori health advocates, who requested an urgent hearing into the matter.

A memorandum from the Crown submitted to the tribunal late last month opposed the inquiry, arguing the tribunal should wait until the legislative process was concluded before deciding whether an inquiry was needed.

It also argued the tribunal adhere to a 'non-interference' principle, which states the courts not allow their processes to interfere with the functioning of other branches, like Parliament.

Judge Damian Stone agreed the principle applied to the courts, but not the tribunal, stating it was a common argument put up by the Crown.

Veteran Māori health advocate Lady Tureiti Moxon, a lead claimant on Wai 3307, said the Crown was just making excuses.

"They've been challenged on the basis that the Waitangi Tribunal doesn't have jurisdiction over these claims. Of course they do.

"Under the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 it's very clear they do have jurisdiction," she said.

The government has pointed to the authority's poor performance on health outcomes in its first year as a reason to get rid of it.

Lady Turieti said that assessment was wrong.

"They've only been going for two years."

"There are ministries the government ... has been propping up for years; Oranga Tamariki, 19 failed reports. And yet Te Aka Whai Ora in its first year they do a review and they find it wanting. Their rationale for that is wrong. They've been doing to this to us for forever, making unilateral decisions that don't include us."

The hearing will be held at the Waitangi Tribunal offices in Wellington from 29 February to 1 March, with a report due before 8 March.

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