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Loss of Maori Health Authority out of step with Te Tiriti and human rights – NZHRC

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission says the government’s process by which it seeks to disestablish the Māori Health Authority falls well short of good faith engagement with Māori, is an inappropriate use of urgency, and undermines access to justice through the Waitangi Tribunal.

“The government of the day has a duty under te Tiriti o Waitangi and through our international human rights agreements to ensure, at the very least, a partnership-based approach to decisions which affect Māori,” says the Commission’s Rongomau Taketake Claire Charters.

“The government has effectively overridden the authority of the Waitangi Tribunal to do away with the Māori Health Authority, and that in itself is highly problematic.”

Charters highlighted that bypassing the standard Select Committee process that allows proposed laws to be scrutinised and the public to have a say, should be reserved for exceptional situations.

“There is no compelling need for urgency here. Its use in this case is particularly concerning given the claims before the Waitangi Tribunal.

“In replacing the Māori Health Authority, we’d also expect the government to have a compelling alternative with a strong case for how it will more effectively achieve the human rights to healthcare and health protection of Māori, as Indigenous peoples.

“Yet, there is no alternative being provided. Instead, Māori will end up back in a system that has consistently failed to realise their rights,” says Charters.

The creation of the Māori Health Authority followed significant reviews of the health and disability system and a major Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into Māori health services and outcomes, in which evidence of inequities experienced by Māori was fully accepted by the Crown.

Māori experience unequal outcomes across almost all health indicators. This inequality and disadvantage is even further heightened for groups such as Tāngata Whaikaha Māori (Māori disabled people) and takatāpui communities.

The evidence and findings of the Tribunal emphasised the importance of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) to address health inequities experienced by Māori. This has been backed-up by research at Harvard University, which shows that when Indigenous Peoples can exercise self-determination, they achieve better outcomes.

Concerns raised at the United Nations

In the Commission’s presentation to the United Nations’ five-yearly human rights review of New Zealand last week, Acting Chief Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo highlighted the country’s weak constitutional protection of te Tiriti o Waitangi and human rights.

“Despite repeated recommendations for the Crown and Māori to determine the appropriate constitutional protections of te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori rights remain vulnerable to the political climate of the day.

“We are concerned that the new government has agreed to remove, review or repeal numerous policies and laws, such as the Māori Health Authority, that provide for Māori.”

The Commission called for the government to progress discussions and action, in partnership with Māori.

 

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