More than 100 people have marched to Rotorua Hospital on behalf of Ngati Whakaue to protest the axing of the hospital's Maori support service.

Hunga Manaaki was ended on Friday, with a wider community-focused service set to replace it.

The service began 20 years ago to provide advocacy and cultural support for Maori during their time in hospital.

Speeches and a prayer were given before the hikoi began today, and as those who were gathered walked up the footpath to the hospital some sang along as a guitar was played.

Supporters of Ngati Whakaue and the Hunga Manakki service walk towards Rotorua Hospital. Photo/Ben Fraser
Supporters of Ngati Whakaue and the Hunga Manakki service walk towards Rotorua Hospital. Photo/Ben Fraser

Kuia Norma Sturley said Ngati Whakaue was there to make a statement.

"We are here for the reinstatement of Hunga Manaaki . . . we are the donors of the land and feel aggrieved at how the process has played out."

Ms Sturley said it was a good turnout considering it was a week day.

Gay Kingi also marched in support.

"Hunga Manaaki is a very important part of Ngati Whakaue. When Maori people are in hospital they are comforted by the team who offer people support, help and advice."

Gavin Porima, of Ngati Manawa, had travelled from Murupara to join the march.

"We'd be here rain, hail or shine. Hunga Manaaki provide a valuable service and cultural advice. The partnership between iwi and the hospital should continue."

Speeches after today's march. Photo/Ben Fraser
Speeches after today's march. Photo/Ben Fraser

Senior students from Rotorua Primary School, which is beside Rotorua Hospital, also took part in the march.


Principal John Naera said it was an educational opportunity for the children, and also close to home because many were Ngati Whakaue.

"We are looking at governance in New Zealand next school term. [Today] they can see what the issue is and it gives them an opportunity to listen to what is being said and make up their own minds what is right and what is wrong."

At the hospital people gathered in the atrium where there were speeches, in both te reo Maori and English, a karakia (prayer) was said and songs were sung.

Haehaetu Barrett, speaking on behalf of Ngati Whakaue, said the iwi wanted a meaningful relationship with the Lakes District Health Board, and direct conversations at that level.

Gathering at Rotorua Hospital today. Photo/Ben Fraser
Gathering at Rotorua Hospital today. Photo/Ben Fraser

"It's not about the contract, it's about people, the community and the future our babies are going into."

Ms Barrett said she thought people left the march knowing Ngati Whakaue had shown unity as a people.

"It's a reminder for the district health board we are intrinsically connected to the hospital and the hill it sits on. I look forward to a more developed relationship in the future."

Dr Johan Morreau spoke of behalf of the health board, because chief executive Ron Dunham was in Wellington on prior engagements.

Several members of the health board and executive team also attended.

Dr Morreau said it was "clearly an emotional time for all".

"The land was gifted to us [by Ngati Whakaue]. We have to be part of the solution, working together is essential to the future."

After the discussion kaumatua Wiremu Keepa said he thought the march was necessary.

"It has now happened and I truly believe it will get the ball rolling and create some positive outcomes. The health board is willing to speak to us . . . our primary resolution is to reinstate Hunga Manaaki."

A petition started by Rotorua Hospital registrar Dr Mania Campbell Seymour calling for the hospital to reinstate the service has more than 2000 signatures.