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Disparities in Maori health

 |  Buddy Mikaere  | 
Trevor Ammundsen’s Through the Portal contribution of 5 March entirely misses the point as to why Maori are so upset by the dismantling of the Maori Health Authority.

His inference that Maori leadership is on both sides of the debate is also ill-considered. Yes, you would expect the Greens, Te Pati Maori, and Labour to defend their Maori Health Authority initiative. But to point to the “well-respected” Shane Reti (well respected? yeah? By whom?) Winston Peters and David Seymour as protagonists with Maori descent – and therefore making the argument Maori v Maori – ignores the political reality.

None of those three politicians could be said to represent the Maori viewpoint given that their voting demographic is largely old, stale and pale. I am yet to meet a Maori person who voted for any of them, especially Seymour.

Disparities in Maori health when compared with the wider community have been endemic almost since syphilis, measles, tuberculosis, and influenza arrived with the first colonisers, severely impacting a defenceless indigenous population.

It is eminently clear that the present health system, while struggling valiantly and despite the heroic efforts of our medical staff and specialists; has not made any significant inroads into that disparity. The numbers are clear. According to the Ministry of Health: In New Zealand, ethnic identity is an important dimension of health inequalities. Maori health status is demonstrably poorer than other New Zealanders; actions to improve Maori health also recognise Treaty of Waitangi obligations of the Crown. (https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/reducing-inequalities-health)

So perhaps it was a question of perspective, and a new administrative approach which might better suit our ability to deal with that disparity. That was the logic behind the establishment of the Authority so blithely dismissed by Ammundsen.

Marama Davidson of the Greens is quite right to point to the Treaty breach committed by the Government’s scrapping of the Authority.

Ammundsen’s assertion that this Government action is just government department consolidation and cost saving shows an appalling ignorance of the underlying health issues not to mention the applicable Treaty principles. The principle of mutual benefit springs to mind immediately. Where is the mutual benefit to the Government’s Maori Treaty partner in all this?

I find it interesting that Ammundsen concludes with the pithy thought that progress comes from co-operation, which comes from communication which involves listening. Ranting is not part of the equation. Having read his right-wing rant, I couldn’t agree more.


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