As a Māori organisation we are committed to Te Tiriti O Waitangi and advocating for an equitable, Treaty compliant, health and disability system where the Treaty partners recognise and respect each other’s rights and obligations. National Hauora Coalition (NHC) was a named claimant in the Treaty claim (Wai2575) that led to the 2019 Waitangi Tribunal Hauora report into the NZ primary care health system. Our general practice clinics have also been at the forefront of the current pandemic response to COVID-19 with nearly half of the positive cases reported coming through our network.
Our enrolled population has been significantly impacted by the pandemic response, which has required significant commitment from Māori communities, Iwi, hapū and whānau Māori, and could have been an opportunity for the Crown to show its ability to act as an authentic Treaty-partner.
However, while the Government puts its commitment in high level plans, there remains a concerning gulf between statements around working with Māori as ‘active partners’ and integrating equity into decision-making, and recent Government action, such as the review of border protections.
The appointment of both Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche to lead the border review suggests a return to the type of thinking more indicative of previous decades rather than embracing and reflecting the direction laid out in the 2019 Waitangi Tribunal Hauora report.
The appointment of Simpson and Roche, and no known plans for including strong Māori involvement, also suggests that the NZ Government has not heard the significant criticism from Māori and many other health experts, stemming from the Health and Disability System review (carried out by these two individuals) and its lack of regard for the advice of its own Māori expert advisory group.
The appointment of Simpson and Roche also goes against the Government’s COVID-19 Māori Action Response Plan which outlined the Government’s commitment to honouring the Treaty and working with Māori going forward on the pandemic response. Māori were not involved with the appointment decision into a review of a pandemic response that has failed to serve and protect our most vulnerable communities and has continued to highlight the institutional racism within our health system (for example, removing their autonomy of where and how whānau Māori and Pacific Island families who have tested positive for Covid-19 self-isolate by mandating all positive cases must go into a MIQF).
As a Treaty partner, Māori should be at the table when decisions are made that affect us and affect Aotearoa. Māori continue to be at high risk from Covid-19 and its impacts, which makes this an even more pressing need. We request that the Government listen to Māori, honour the mana of Māori and demonstrate partnership in all of its Covid-19 decision-making going forward. There is an immediate opportunity for the Government to showcase this by ensuring that there is appropriate Māori representation in the border review and providing assurance that their advice will not be disregarded by the review leads.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL HAUORA COALITION
The NHC kaupapa is mana whānau, whānau ora and is a lead advocate for hauora Māori (Wai 2687) through the Waitangi Tribunal Health Services Kaupapa Inquiry (Wai 2575). In its day to day activities NHC partners with a wide range of agencies, Iwi and industry groups to commission and deliver a broad range of indigenously designed health and social services to improve health outcomes for Māori, achieve health equity and greater social cohesion for the benefit of Aotearoa.