MHF opposes urgent move to disestablish Māori Health Authority

Our call to government
Found in: News / Statements
Date: 27 February 2024

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (the MHF) opposes the urgent passing of law changes to disestablish the Māori Health Authority, changes presented yesterday by Hon. Dr Shane Reti, and calls on the government to work harder than ever to meet its commitment to equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for Māori. 

“As a mental health organisation and Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner, we have long supported structural change that gives Māori resources and decision-making power to exercise tino rangatiratanga,” says MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson.  

“We don’t support the disestablishment of the Māori Health Authority in principle – and we are especially concerned these law changes have been made without the chance for public - and iwi, hapū and whānau Māori - scrutiny normally due under the Select Committee process,” he says.  

' ”It is vital that the government hears from the public through a proper democratic process, and that it debates how it will achieve equitable health for Māori.” '

The Waitangi Tribunal’s 2019 Hauora Report found that the Crown has failed to address persistent Māori health inequities, give effect to tino rangatiratanga and properly resource Māori health organisations and providers, undermining Māori efforts to apply their own solutions. 

“Establishing Te Aka Whai Ora enabled Māori to do what hadn’t been enabled at a government level before – to exercise tino rangatiratanga by leading health responses for Māori firmly grounded in tikanga Māori. This is crucial, because Māori best understand what Māori want and need, and positive Māori wellbeing benefits our nation as a whole,” Mr Robinson says. 

Currently, Māori still face many systemic barriers to accessing quality mental healthcare, such as experiencing culturally unsafe interactions, racism, and lack of clinician cultural competency and diagnostic inequity, as well as being disproportionately subjected to solitary confinement and restraint under the Mental Health Act. Because of these barriers and other impacts of colonisation, Māori experience some of the highest mental healthcare inequities in the country. 

Despite the urgent moves to disestablish the Authority, the MHF believes the Government still has an opportunity to improve Māori mental health.  

“Kōrero from Māori leaders and communities, and research shows there are a number of actions the Government can take to continue striving for positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes for Māori,” Robinson says. 

“These include growing a wider range of kaupapa Māori services across the country, and the Māori mental health and addiction workforce; commissioning kaupapa Māori services and increasing investment in them; and incorporating mātauranga Māori and hauora Māori solutions into all aspects of the mental health system. 

“These changes are not exhaustive – they are just some of the changes needed. 

“A structure within the Ministry of Health/Manatū Hauora and Health New Zealand/Te Whatu Ora could also be empowered to carry out Māori-focused planning, collaboration, policy and strategy, monitoring, support and engagement with Iwi-Māori Partnership Boards, alongside the Hauora Māori Advisory Committee.  

“We are happy to share what we know on this subject with Government leaders, alongside and informed by Māori health organisations who are leading the way”.