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‘OraTaiao opposes the scrapping of Te Aka Whai Ora and urges delay of enabling legislation’

OraTaiao is appalled by Government plans to introduce legislation abolishing Te Aka Whai Ora ahead of an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing on the matter on Thursday.

“In order to address the many health inequities and health system disparities experienced by Māori, it is vital to have a truly Māori-led structure, independent from Te Whatu Ora, with the power and resources to commission hauora services and the freedom to advocate unapologetically for Māori health”, says OraTaiao Co-convenor Summer Wright (Ngāti Maniapoto).

“Successful adaptation to the effects of climate change, which disproportionately affect Māori, requires this Māori-led structure as well.”

“Even in its infancy, Te Aka Whai Ora has demonstrated its ability to put solutions to longstanding issues within health, such as the empowerment of lived experience leadership across areas that have historically failed to acknowledge the importance of lived experience in the development and delivery of services.”

“Drawing upon in-depth engagement with Māori which only Te Aka Whai Ora could achieve, for instance, the agency has already produced a Rongoā Māori Action Plan which – if implemented – will overcome the limitations of the 2014 rongoā standards produced by the Ministry of Health.”

“By acknowledging the deep, personal connections Māori have with the natural environment and incorporating protection of te taiao, this plan from Te Aka Whai Ora supports Indigenous-led climate action which is essential to sustaining a healthy climate for all.

“This is just a glimpse into the sorts of innovations that will come should Te Aka Whai Ora be enabled to flourish, which has not been the case so far.”

The Government has acknowledged that it has not consulted with Māori over the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora, in accordance with its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and has published no plan for what will replace Te Aka Whai Ora to ensure equitable health outcomes for Māori, as guaranteed in Te Tiriti.

The Waitangi Tribunal has established that the claimants, including 29 Māori Health Providers, have demonstrated that they are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant and irreversible prejudice if Te Aka Whai Ora is disestablished.

The Government’s plan potentially jeopardises all commitments to Tiriti-based health provision contained in legislation, strategies, plans and funding arrangements, as a finding by the Waitangi Tribunal that disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora constitutes a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi could mean that service provision based on its abolition is likewise non-compliant.

OraTaiao is also deeply concerned that the Government’s plans have blindsided and undermined the Waitangi Tribunal by bringing forward the introduction of legislation from the previously scheduled date of 8 March, just a week out from the Tribunal’s urgent hearing. If legislation is introduced before Thursday, then the hearing must be suspended since the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over matters currently before Parliament.

“This undermining has serious implications for all of the Tribunal’s work, including the two remaining stages of the Health Services and Outcomes Inquiry and the upcoming Kaupapa Inquiry into Government climate change policy”, says Ms Wright.

“We urge Health Minister Dr Shane Reti to defer the introduction of this legislation.”