The country’s most senior healthcare professionals have seized on Waitangi Day to throw their support behind the Māori Health Authority.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says successive governments have "acknowledged the impact of healthcare inequalities on whānau Māori but failed to make a sufficient and sustained investment or enact structural change", and do things differently.
“The Crown’s failure to meet its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi was detailed through the Wai 2575 hearings and the Hauora subsequent report,” the statement says,
Colonisation, racism, and the social, economic, and commercial determinants of health have compounded inequalities, according to the union of over 5000 senior salaried doctors and dentists.
“The establishment of Te Aka Whai Ora is the Crown’s acknowledgement of the need to do things differently... [and] creates a means to target funding, grow the Māori workforce and improve accountability across the health system," the statement says.
Sustained underinvestment in Māori health, the persistent gap in life expectancy between Māori and Pākehā, inequity in health services and outcomes, as well as a failure to integrate multidimensional values such as rongoā are all identified as reasons for an independent body that champions kaupapa Māori.
Challenge to politicians
“Te Aka Whai Ora is an opportunity to do things differently, through principles of tino rangatiratanga, mana motuhake and mana Māori, and underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
The group laid down a challenge to political parties ahead of this year's October general election to deliver a plan for health equity for Māori.
“How does your party propose to meet the Crown’s obligations to Māori health equity under Te Tiriti o Waitangi?” the paper asks.
“What is your timeframe to achieve equality in life expectancy outcomes?”
“What investment is your party dedicating (in the short term and long term) to Māori health equity?” it says.
“How will your party work across the House of Representatives to achieve sustained change beyond the three-year parliamentary term?” they add.
Political parties must deliver concrete evidence backing up their policies and plans, the group says.
Te Aka Whai Ora was created last year as part of the Labour government's plans for co-governance and addressing health inequities; at Ratana this year National reaffirmed it was committed to scrapping the organisation.
"It doesn't mean we don't want Māori involved in decision-making and partnering with Māori. We have a principal objection because New Zealand has one government: it's elected by all of us, it's accountable to all of us, and its public services are available to anyone who needs them.” National leader Christopher Luxon said.
Luxon says a National government would redirect Māori Health Authority funding to Iwi and community organisations.
"I think that actually delivering those services - there's not one mode of delivery out of Wellington. Delivering those services through community organisations that are closest to the people and to the challenges that are on the ground is the right way to do it.” Luxon said.