Hundreds of Māori leaders gather to discuss iwi kaupapa, new health authority

The pōwhiri at Takapūwāhia marae.
The pōwhiri at Takapūwāhia marae. Photo credit: RNZ/Meriana Johnsen

Meriana Johnsen for RNZ 

Hundreds of Māori leaders have gathered in Porirua to discuss the big kaupapa for iwi and hapū, including how they will inform the design of the new Māori Health Authority.

A collective of 71 iwi entities, the National Iwi Chairs Forum (NICF) kicked off its two-day hui - hosted by Ngāti Toa - with a pōwhiri at Takapūwāhia marae.

Over the next couple of days, they'll cover kaupapa (topics) falling under five pou (pillars) - Pou Taiao (environment), Pou Tikanga (constitution and Tiriti o Waitangi), Pou Take Ahurangi (climate), Pou Tangata (people) and Pou Tahua (economics).

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Toa chair and host Dr Taku Parai said it was important they "kept a tight rope" on the government, and held them accountable.

He said he was heartened by the "bold decisions" of the government, such as the Māori Health Authority.

"I've never heard it in all my life that a Minister [Andrew Little in that type of seat] comes out and says, 'no it's got to be done by them because we don't know how to do it'."

Pou Tangata chair Rāhui Papa said each iwi needed the opportunity to share their views on how the Māori Health Authority would work right from the co-design phase, so it would cater to all Māori.

"People will come with their kete of whakaaro and they all need to be reflected in the mix so I'm picking that there's going to be more regionalised hui and anyone can come and share their whakaaro.

"The key and salient point is that everyone gets the invitation."

His expectation was the iwi and hapū feedback would "be foundational cornerstones of any authority that is created".

It's the second time Ngāti Toa have hosted, and Dr Parai said everyone was excited to be involved and do their part to manaaki their manuhiri (guests).

He hoped the two-day hui would strengthen "unity within Māoridom" and ensure they "keep a handle and a vigilant eye on those that are making key decisions" so iwi and hapū were included.

Dr Parai said a big part of the work of NICF was strengthening relationships with Ministers and other government officials.

They are expected to attend tomorrow to respond to the kōrero from iwi and hapū.

The hui are closed to media.

The first meeting of the National Iwi Chairs Forum of the year was set to be held at Waitangi but moved online because of concerns about COVID-19.