Once Were Warriors actor refuses dialysis in Corrections protest

updated By Raniera Harrison

Former Once Were Warriors actor, Pete Smith (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri) is refusing life-saving dialysis treatment in protest over Corrections' treatment of an elderly Māori male prisoner brought in for his own dialysis.

Once Were Warriors actor Pete Smith has been refusing the treatment for three days now.

Three weeks ago, Smith witnessed an elderly Māori male prisoner from the Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngāwhā undergoing dialysis under guard, in treatment that he alleges was dehumanising.

He says he doesn't "have time nor the energy to go down and chase these things" but is willing to die for the safety of kaumātua and kuia who are also undergoing dialysis procedures at Kaitāia Hospital.

"There's nobody else up there, they don't care about our people if nobody stands up and says 'stop it, stop treating our people like that'," says Smith.

After voicing his concern Smith's own dialysis schedule changed, allegedly so as not to coincide with the presence of Corrections staff.

"I don't know any other way to react than to voice my opinion, even if it meant banging on the door and aiming at the security guards and saying 'f*** off, you f*****n' tie our people up and treat them like slaves, get the f*** out of here.'  It was all done in 5-10 seconds," says Smith.

Mike Rongo, Prison Director of the Northland Region Corrections Facility responded this afternoon. 

"Public safety must always be our top priority. Where a prisoner is required to attend a hospital appointment, our staff do everything they can to ensure public safety and security is maintained while ensuring a person’s privacy and dignity is upheld," he says.

Rongo acknowledges Smith's protest and said a private room had now been provided for the inmate.

"We are aware of Mr Smith’s concerns and have been working urgently with the DHB to ensure both he and the prisoner can undertake their treatment without compromising our absolute obligation to keep the public safe when a prisoner is outside the secure confines of a prison.  This has already included providing the prisoner with a separate room where the majority of his medical care can be carried out in private. 

"Our staff are guided by the principles of manaakitanga where they ensure prisoners receive the medical care they need, and our staff maintain kaitiakitanga by ensuring prisoners, the community, and escorting staff are safe in our practices."

Northland DHB would not put forward anyone to speak to the matter today.  They say that the issues at hand are being dealt with in an appropriate manner.

"It's not much to be discrete in how you treat our people, it's not much in acknowledging our kaumatua and kuia, that we shouldn't be ignored," says Smith.

Te Ao Māori News also spoke to other renal patients currently at Kaitāia Hospital today.

They say that the way in which Corrections brings Māori inmates to hospital is much like that of "a dog being dragged".

Smith says he'll do what it takes to look after Māori in hospital.

"I'm prepared to take it as far as it needs to be done, even if it means getting taken out," he says.