Rotorua Maori are discussing how euthanasia fits with their values, as a bill legalising euthanasia makes its way through parliament.

While some kaumatua said the thought of euthanasia did not sit well with them culturally, they saw no need to stop a tangi of someone who chose euthanasia from being held on a marae.

Reverend Chris Huriwai sparked the debate earlier this week when he took to Twitter to question Maori MPs about why they supported the bill.

The End of Life Choice Bill was introduced to parliament by Act Party leader David Seymour, supporting the legalisation of euthanasia in certain circumstances.


Parliament voted 76-44 to pass the first reading and the bill has been referred to the Justice Select Committee which has to report back within nine months.

Huriwai said he did not back the bill because of personal beliefs, but wanted to spark a wider discussion about euthanasia.

Former Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Maori world view was that it was at a crossroads.

"Culturally, I don't feel comfortable with [euthanasia], but I also understand that I've never been in that situation myself," Flavell said.

He said he did not think marae would turn someone away from having a tangi there, despite some saying otherwise.

"They have the ability to talk through these issues and it's an open process where speeches and debates will happen," he said.

"People who have been away from home, even for more than 30 years, will still come back to Rotorua for their tangi, to have time on their whare.

"There has to be something strongly cultural in that, home is home, it connects you back to the place you came from to lie beside your tupuna."

In 2011 Flavell made headlines for his hard stance on youth suicide, which included statements about perhaps "not celebrating their lives on our marae".


"I don't think suicide can be lined up with euthanasia, where it is destiny in a sense that they will pass away," he said.

"I know Maori people who have had grandparents, parents, siblings or loved ones who were left to die in what they would term a 'mana-diminishing way', they lost their dignity.

"They had the despair of watching their loved ones endure pain and suffering."

Act Party leader and Epsom MP David Seymour, who initiated the private member's bill on euthanasia. Photo/File
Act Party leader and Epsom MP David Seymour, who initiated the private member's bill on euthanasia. Photo/File

He said in a sense many Maori were already practising a form of euthanasia.

"A family member was recently taken off life support and effectively left to die. In a sense, that's already a form of practising euthanasia and people aren't necessarily open about that.

"In terms of the discussion, I was happy to see it go to the first reading."

Rotorua Lakes Council Te Tatou o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said there would be a mix of marae that staunchly opposed having a tangi on the marae for those who chose euthanasia and marae that were more contemporary.

"It will come down to the decision being made at each individual marae," White said.

"It's not a nice thing, when you can't have your tangi on a marae and I would support allowing people to go back to the marae," he said.

He said for the him it was a simple matter - that a person's suffering needed to end.

Although he did not agree with euthanasia, Te Arawa kaumatua Trevor Maxwell thought people should still be "accorded the honour" of a marae tangi.

"They are still Maori people and the tangi is not only for them, it is for their whanau and their ancestors," Maxwell said.

"It would disappoint me, for people to choose suicide or euthanasia, but I wouldn't want to deprive them of what happens on the marae."

If people really had strong views against it, they were welcome to not attend, he said.

• Public submissions are being called for the End of Life Choice Bill, closing on February 20.