Judith Collins endorses view Māori Health Authority is 'separatist', pledges to scrap restructure

National leader Judith Collins has pledged to scrap the huge health restructure, endorsing a view that the proposed Māori Health Authority is "separatist". 

In the major health shake-up, the Government plans to create a new Crown entity, Health NZ, to replace the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs), to enable consistency of healthcare across New Zealand. 

The Government will also create a Māori Health Authority, which will work in partnership with Health NZ to commission care across the country, ensuring the needs and expectations of Māori are met through design and delivery. 

The restructure is in response to the Health and Disability System Review, which found that Māori have "not been served well by the system", and the system "has not delivered Māori health and wellbeing outcomes that are fair".  

Collins is clearly not a fan of the Government's plan, promising to scrap the entire restructure if National is elected to power in 2023. 

Being "really clear", Collins said on Twitter National would "reverse the restructuring of public health announced by Labour today" because the replacement of DHBs "by a Wellington bureaucracy will not work". 

Collins said National would also "remove the Maori Health Authority" because "public health provision must be based on individual need, not race". 

She re-tweeted this: "So it's one health authority but 4 divisions and a race based separatist Maori health authority... ok so that's essentially 5 DHBs. There is no indication that the new gigantic system will be any better organised than the DHBs being replaced."

National's health spokesperson Shane Reti said the reforms are reckless. 

"The Government should be looking to maintain regional identities and exploring the consolidation of some functions across DHBs, like asset management, not getting rid of them entirely," he said. 

"We have no idea how much this plan will cost, how long it will take to implement, or how disruptive this process is going to be."

Dr Reti suggested that, instead of a Māori Health Authority, an annual strategic Māori health plan could be put in place, where local Māori decided what their health inequities were which DHBs would be held accountable for.  

Dr Rei acknowledged that, in National's promise to scrap the reforms, the health system would always be going through change instead of benefitting from it, "so the solution is don't do the restructure". 

National leader Judith Collins
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

ACT's health spokesperson Brooke van Velden welcomed the DHB restructure into one organisation as "a positive step", but says it doesn't address the underlying issues in health. 

ACT also shares National's view that the Māori Health Authority is not necessary. 

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

The restructure has been widely welcomed by organisations including the NZ Medical Association, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Alcohol Action NZ, the Cancer Society, and E tū, one of the largest unions for DHB-employed workers. 

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

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

"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."

Green Party health spokesperson Dr Elizabeth Kerekere also welcomed the creation of a Māori Health Authority.

"There is a lot of mahi to do in this space, and we need to ensure the call from tangata whenua for an independent voice and commissioning power is implemented," she said. 

"We recognise potential benefits from combining DHBs into a nationwide health agency, but it is essential local communities still have a say in the decisions that affect them."