Don Brash 'strongly opposed' to 'disaster' Māori Health Authority

Former National and ACT Party leader Don Brash says he's "strongly opposed" to the Māori Health Authority proposed by the Government in the major health restructure announced this week.

Earlier this week, the Government announced it was planning to create a new Crown entity and scrap New Zealand's 20 District Health Boards (DHBs).

The Government said it would also create a Māori Health Authority to ensure the needs and expectations of Māori are met through design and delivery. The authority will work with the new Crown entity, which will be known as Health NZ.

It comes after a Health and Disability System Review found Māori have "not been served well by the system" and the system "has not delivered Māori health and wellbeing outcomes that are fair".

But Brash is not a fan of the Government's plan. Speaking to Magic Talk's Sunday Cafe, he said the Māori Health Authority was a "disaster".

Brash said the proposal "leads us down a direction of two different peoples" and "we don't want that kind of division".

"Are Māori health issues important? Of course, they are," he told host Mel Homer. "Are Māori health outcomes worse than the general population? Yes, they certainly are and therefore Māori health should warrant more spending on it - but a separate Māori Health Authority? Absolutely not in my view."

After the reforms were announced, current National leader Judith Collins pledged to reverse them if elected. She said on Twitter that National would "remove the Māori Health Authority" because "public health provision must be based on individual need, not race".  

Her party would also  "reverse the restructuring of public health announced by Labour" because the replacement of DHBs "by a Wellington bureaucracy will not work", she said.

The ACT Party shared the National Party's view that a Māori Health Authority wasn't necessary.

"A separate Māori Health Authority will only prove to be divisive," deputy leader and health spokesperson Brooke van Velden said. "We have more than two races in New Zealand. What about the health needs of Chinese and Indian New Zealanders?" 

Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer described the establishment of a Māori Health Authority as a transformation. 

"We applaud the admission that the current system no longer serves our needs and we also applaud the intention to address inequities and live up to the vision of Te Tiriti o Waitangi," Waititi said. 

Don Brash.
Don Brash. Photo credit: File

"As always, when it comes to Māori, the devil is in the detail and so we will be keeping a close eye on how this structure impacts our people on the ground."

Health Minister Andrew Little, in announcing the reforms, said they will create a "truly national" system.

"The kind of treatment people get will no longer be determined by where they live."