24 Feb 2024

Iwi concerns over plans to disestablish Māori Health Authority before tribunal hearing

12:29 pm on 24 February 2024
Tainui leader Rahui Papa says a new agreement with Oranga Tamariki marks a step up in the tribe’s ability to look at its mokopuna in times of trouble.

Pou Tangata co-chairperson Rahui Papa. Photo: Supplied / Auckland Council

A Māori leader says the government's plan to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora - the Māori Health Authority - before an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing raises "real concerns".

A Crown memorandum submitted to the Tribunal on Friday said a bill to disestablish the authority could be tabled in parliament as early as this coming Tuesday.

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti confirmed in a statement to RNZ that he expected the bill to be tabled early next week, which would limit the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

The Waitangi Tribunal said on Friday that the inquiry into the proposed disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora would proceed as planned next Thursday.

"The Tribunal is committed to maintaining due process in evaluating the evidence before it in making its findings and recommendations. The Tribunal is therefore minded to proceed with the urgent hearing."

Judge Damian Stone issued a memorandum of directions stating if the bill was introduced prior to the completion of the hearing, the Tribunal would regain jurisdiction to complete its inquiry once the bill passed into law.

Pou Tangata is the national organisation for iwi leaders. Its co-chairperson, Rahui Papa, said the government's move raised "real concerns".

"The Tribunal hearing was set to hear the grievances, and with it being put into part and parcel of the parliamentary machinations, the [Tribunal hearing] simply stops, without the Crown actually hearing what the inherent grievances are."

Papa said the government had not communicated with hapu and Māori providers about any alternative plan.

This week, WAI 3307 claimant Lady Tureiti Moxon said she believed the Crown had been "very dismissive" of the claim and failed to provide the information the Tribunal asked for.

Lady Moxon said the government was "just going ahead, irrespective of what anybody else thinks - yet we are their Treaty partner, and they need to be reminded of that and we shouldn't be just ignored."

Minister Reti said scrapping the Māori Health Authority was part of the coalition government's 100-day plan and Tuesday's bill was not based on the timeline of the urgent hearing.

"Timing for the introduction of this legislation has not been set based on a Waitangi Tribunal hearing timeline - it simply reflects the 100-day plan concluding by 8 March," he said.

"We acknowledge the concerns and energy the claimants and interested parties have invested in bringing their claim to the Tribunal, and the work of the Tribunal which is still in progress."

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