Petition to establish Māori Health Authority finds government support

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

A call to action and a call for equity came in the form of 2300-signature petitions calling on the government to accept the recommendations for a Māori Health Authority today. 

The recommendation had come from the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review, tasked with a two-year investigation of unfairness in the health system and how to address it, which concluded a Māori Health Authority with commissioning rights would be best.

Such an authority is already on the cards because Associate Health Minister (Māori health) Peeni Henare has already expressed his ambition to establish it. This was supported keenly by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Waitangi in her speech from the māhau earlier this month. She told her audience that the government supported the cause. 

Henare says it's about equity and the research is clear that something needs to be done. Those sentiments were echoed by his cabinet colleague, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson, who says "Mainstream health setups have not benefited Māori." Jackson has a long history of working in communities and told Te Ao Maori News, "Māori have never had equity, Māori have never had better treatment. We've always been on the other side."

Dying younger

The question though on how it will be developed is still up for grabs, Henare saying "the devil is in the design."

Greens Party co-leader Marama Davidson has made it clear her party will be pushing for a fully resourced health authority.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi received the petitions outside Parliament today and is also committed to them. He says, "When our people die 10 years younger than everyone else, we have to make sure that we look at other opportunities and options."

Reports say Maori are 20% more likely to develop cancer and are twice as likely to die of cancer as non-Maori people. Māori are over-represented in a number of poor-health statistics. 

While it seems there is a lot of support, the National Party is yet to discuss it at caucus level. 

As the Māori Party's Waititii and Labour Party deputy leader Kelvin Davis go head to head over the treatment of prisoners, the two may find a new whanaungatanga in the quest for a Māori health authority, with both Waititi and Henare promising to give their all for Māori health outcomes in the debating chamber.