Takahue man Pete Smith is taking a stand against what he says is for many a traumatic and needless reminder of the colonisation of Māori in a modern setting. And he's putting his own life on the line.
The 60-year-old former actor (Once Were Warriors, The Piano, The Quiet Earth) said on Monday that he and many others were distressed by the regular sight of a sentenced prisoner being delivered to Kaitaia Hospital for renal dialysis "in chains."
The sight of the elderly man, who he believed had to be at least in his 70s, and in no condition to escape, arriving at the main entrance had reduced one kuia to tears, he said, while it angered and upset many others.
Mr Smith, who has himself been undergoing dialysis three times a week for the last four years, said he would no longer present himself for the process until he gained some "traction."
He believed that without dialysis he would survive for about 10 days.
Those who underwent dialysis at the Kaitaia Hospital clinic were "100 per cent Māori and elderly," he added, "and they are being exposed to this. They are being traumatised.
"They bring him in through the front entrance, in public, in chains. It's a repeat of the colonial attitude about attacking Māori, putting them in chains and treating them like animals. We need to see more dignity, a bit more discretion."
He did not know what the man was in prison for, and didn't care, but if he needed dialysis he should be delivered to the hospital in a way that other people were comfortable with.
"When they blessed this place [Te Waka Hauora] they talked about tikanga Māori, so where is it?" he asked.
"I know I'm going to get very sick very quickly without dialysis, but you have to stand your ground, don't you?"
Northland Region Corrections Facility acting prison director Michael Rongo said the department was aware of Mr Smith's concerns, and had been working urgently with the Northland DHB to ensure that both he and the prisoner could undertake their treatment without compromising the department's "absolute obligation" to keep the public safe when a prisoner was outside the secure confines of a prison.
That already included providing the prisoner with a separate room where he could receive the majority of his medical care in private.
"Public safety must always be our top priority," Mr Rongo said.
"Where a prisoner is required to attend a hospital appointment, our staff do everything they can to ensure public safety and security is maintained while ensuring a person's privacy and dignity is upheld.
"Our staff are guided by the principles of manaakitanga, where they ensure prisoners receive the medical care they need, and our staff maintain kaitiakitanga by ensuring prisoners, the community and escorting staff are safe in our practices.
"Each year we carry out tens of thousands of prisoner escorts between prisons, courts, specialist medical facilities and rehabilitation providers. We acknowledge that this can be difficult for members of the public to observe, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the individual and their level of risk," he added.
"Our staff are trained to ensure all escorts are completed in line with best practice and in a safe, humane and secure manner, while minimising any risk to prisoners, our staff and the public."