15 May 2024

Waitangi Tribunal to hear a claim into government disestablishing the Māori Health Authority

7:06 pm on 15 May 2024
Lady Tureiti Moxon  at the new Taakiri Tuu Wellness and Diagnostic Centre in Hamilton.

Lady Tureiti Moxon. Photo: Supplied / Sarah Sparks

Despite the bill to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora / the Māori Health Authority being passed under urgency, the Waitangi Tribunal has agreed to an inquiry to be heard later this year.

Lead claimants Lady Tureiti Moxon and Janice Kuka filed the Wai 3307 Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) Urgent Claim last year, but the tribunal lost jurisdiction after the bill passed.

Claimants have now been notified that they have met the criteria for a 'priority inquiry' scheduled for October 2024, subject to the tribunal panel's availability.

The matter will be heard as part of the existing Wai 2575 Health Services andtcomes Kaupapa Inquiry timetabling.

In its recent memorandum, the Waitangi Tribunal detailed the scope of the priority inquiry. It will investigate "the Crown's alternative proposals to improve Māori health in lieu of a Māori Health Authority".

"The priority inquiry will therefore examine both the processes and steps taken by the Crown to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora, as well as the Crown's proposed alternative plans to address Māori health outcomes following its disestablishment".

"What the tribunal said in their Oranga Tamariki (Section 7AA) Urgent Inquiry Report this month and Wai 2915 Report, He Pāharakeke, he Rito Whakakīkīnga Whāruarua released three years ago in 2021 is very relevant to our matter. It is crystal clear," said Lady Tureiti, chairperson of the National Urban Māori Authority and managing director of Te Kōhao Health.

"Specifically, the 'fundamental article 2 rights reserved to Māori of tino rangatiranga'."

In the context of disestablishing Te Aka Whai Ora, both claimants said Māori would suffer significant and irreversible prejudice as a result.

"The government doesn't have an alternative plan that we can see," said co-lead claimant Janice Kuka, chair of Turuki Health Care and managing director of Ngā Mataapuna Oranga.

"So, the knock-on effect is we're still in the dark about what the plan is for Māori health. I feel there is widespread confusion.

"What we have is a health system that is floundering because it has no sense of direction at both a national and regional level. It's an era of uncertainty around the sustainability of services. Māori providers are asking if they have a future and what services will be reduced."

In January 2024 in submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown said "it was premature for it to articulate the full detail of these plans when these have not yet been worked through by Cabinet".

By April 2024, the Crown had reported back to the tribunal, advising: "The topic is the subject of a law reform process currently underway, and timeframes for final Cabinet decisions and introduction of amendment legislation to the House of Representatives had not yet been decided. The Crown intends to proactively release these Cabinet decisions once an amendment bill is introduced."

The tribunal has now directed Crown counsel to file a memorandum with an update on this matter by Monday 27 May 2024.

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