Mere Simons hadn't heard about Dr Lance O'Sullivan leaving Kaitaia general practice Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika until Wednesday, and her immediate response was to organise a march in protest.

"If I can march to Wellington for the foreshore and seabed, I will surely march for Lance to tautoko and show our support for him," she said.

"We were marching for a man that's uplifting our community. We were showing our solidarity and that we care for him. He belongs here, he's Te Rarawa. To come back and be trampled on by our own people, it's disgraceful. Everything he stands for is good for our community. They are trampling on his mana."

Dr O'Sullivan, who has declined to speak publicly at this point but has undertaken to do so in the near future, has resigned from the practice, and is currently on three months' 'gardening leave.' He has achieved some prominence, within the Far North and beyond, over recent months with claims that many Maori are not served well by the primary health system, their inability to access treatment when it is first needed leading to unnecessarily significant health problems.


He has also been a strong advocate for addressing the issue of poverty, particularly as it is manifested in housing standards and the impact they have on health.

A meeting between Dr O'Sullivan's supporters and members of the Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika board was scheduled for Mahimaru Marae yesterday, Ms Simons saying a lot of questions had to be asked.

Waireti Walters was also at last week's protest, saying she was too old to march these days but was anxious to force the board to meet with the people. Previous efforts to meet with the board had been unsuccessful.

"I want to know why we've got to this stage," she said.

"This is a big issue. Lance has made a point of coming home to look after his people. The natives are restless.

"The worst part is that these organisations were put in place to help Maori health, and they ain't doing that."

She had been Dr O'Sullivan's patient for more than six years. As soon as he turned up in town, that was it," she added.

"We had dinner together last night and he was devastated. He's from Te Rarawa; he came back to serve his people, and I feel betrayed and ambushed."