Claims by Labour Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri that Maori should be alarmed about a government savings directive, are unfounded says Hawke's Bay District Health Board chief executive Dr Kevin Snee.

"I can stand hand-on-heart and say, not only are we not cutting services, but we are developing services and improving the health experience of Maori," he said.

Ms Whaitiri said the Government had directed health boards to cut $138 million this year and Hawke's Bay's share was $10 million.

"A 2015 HBDHB report revealed Hawke's Bay Maori are more than two and a half times more likely than non-Maori to die of treatable illnesses - the last thing we need are more cuts in the sector.


"Where are these savings going to come from?" she asked.

Dr Snee said a savings programme from the board's $500 million budget was well entrenched, enabling it to make recent capital expenditures such as the Wairoa hospital extension, the new mental health and renal units.

"Any reasonably-sized organisation would reprioritise 1 to 3 per cent of spending annually."

Savings funded existing needs, new needs and a surplus "which we then spend on things like our new almost-$20 million mental health unit".

Ms Whaitiri said "Maori in particular" should be alarmed but Dr Snee said Maori health was improving and the inequity with non-Maori health reducing thanks to programmes targeting Maori.

He said Hawke's Bay was seeing success with "some of the big statistics" thanks to a dozen programmes.

Maori life expectancy had improved as had coronary heart disease, teenage pregnancy rates had fallen "and we have almost eliminated rheumatic fever - probably the most successful region in the country".

He said no matter how much money the board was given it could always spend more but the best "bang-for-buck" in health improvement would be found from increased employment and education.

The board's emphasis was shifting from hospital care to primary care, which would further lessen health inequities.