National Party leader Christopher Luxon says he would get rid of the Māori Health Authority if he becomes Prime Minister in next year's election because a single system can still deliver results.
The authority was implemented after the Health and Disability System Review found that Māori health outcomes were significantly worse than those of other New Zealanders and represented a failure of the health and disability system that didn't reflect Treaty of Waitangi commitments.
Luxon told The Hui on Monday there's "no doubt" Māori health outcomes are significantly poorer and there is a disparity throughout the country, and believed this is something that needs to be improved.
Currently, as a Pākehā man, he will on average live seven-and-a-half years longer than a Māori man. He said that isn't equal and New Zealand should strive for increasing amounts of equality for everyone.
"The real issue here is about how you best deliver outcomes and get results for New Zealanders, and that's really where our focus needs to go. And what we're arguing is, look, the Māori Health Authority isn't the way to do that," Luxon said.
He said that the seven-year difference in lifespan is attributable to a range of factors, with poverty being "a really big driver of it".
"We've got real challenges around. If you look at Māori homeownership rights, they are very different. If you look at Māori achievement in education, it's very different. If you look at outcomes financially, the average Māori earns $10,000 less than the average New Zealander. So there's a lot of things that are at the root cause of all of that."
But even though the Māori Health Authority's purpose is to target those inequalities, Luxon said a single system is a better way to do it.
"What we fundamentally believe in is we want every Kiwi in this country to flourish. We want to see better outcomes for all New Zealanders," he said.
"Yes, we have really big improvements to get a bunch of improvement on a range of social indicators for Māori and outcomes for Māori. But the way to do that is actually to still have a single system with innovation and components within it that can deliver those results."
Luxon said we have to start thinking about a future where Māori statistics are discussed because the inequality has been addressed.
"Our systems are imperfect, but we have to keep working at perfecting them. But what I'm telling you now is creating a separate Māori Health Authority with amalgamation, more centralisation, more bureaucracy isn't the way in which you get outcomes," he said.
"We've added 14,000 bureaucrats to Wellington over the last four years and we haven't delivered better health outcomes, better educational outcomes, better economical poverty outcomes in New Zealand.
"And so really, it's about how you make a system work and how you actually deliver it to get things done, and that's what I really am concerned about at the moment. We're doing a lot of talk, but we're not actually getting action or results."
Luxon said that within New Zealand's system, "as imperfect as it is", the answer isn't to create two systems that create competition and complexity.
"We're better to actually take a single system and say, how do we perfect it more. There are ways to do it in terms of having a Māori health directorate within the Ministry of Health, there's ways to do it within terms of iwi partnership," he said.
A Māori Health Authority was recommended in the controversial He Puapua document, a report commissioned by the Government in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.
The report was commissioned as a response to the former National-led Government signing New Zealand up in 2010 to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People UNDRIP.
Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.