Amidst the politicisation of Te Aka Whai Ora, the agency’s chief executive, Riana Manuel, is urging her staff to remain focused and committed. She warned her team against being sidetracked by the entity’s role as a political football.
“I can understand how we would become that.” Manuel told Dale Husband on Radio Waatea Thursday. “But what I’ve actually told my team is actually ‘whānau, let’s make hay while we’ve got the time.’” “Let’s make sure that we’re doing all the good things that we can do to turn the system around” she added.
Her statement comes as both National and ACT parties vow to dismantle the Māori health authority should they come to power following the upcoming elections in October.
Te Aka Whai Ora has been responsible for overseeing Māori health policies, services, and outcomes since 2022. The agency works in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand.
Manuel, a 30-year veteran of the health system, sees transformative change finally happening.
“Not with a great big stick but with the option of pointing when things aren’t going right, how we turn this waka around and move towards the right direction. That’s what we want to do. That’s what we are doing.” she said.
The chief executive highlighted the agency’s strength in forming hauora partnerships to develop innovative approaches and frameworks for addressing health disparities.
“Without our voice being very much present, without representation, without the opportunity to commission and without the opportunity to hold the system to account” was the alternative come October, she said.