An interim governing board for the new Māori Health Authority will be confirmed by September in what Health Minister Andrew Little says will represent "true partnership".
Some of Aotearoa's most experienced iwi leaders, tikanga and health experts have been assembled as part of a Steering Group to work with Māori across the country to decide the make-up of the interim board, chosen by group chairman Tā Mason Durie.
Little said the group would advise the Transition Unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on governance arrangements and initial appointments to an interim board for the authority.
"Tā Mason has assembled a strong group of Māori leaders to begin this important process," Little said.
"I am confident that their leadership, experience and perspectives will enable access to the network of talent within Māoridom and allow them to identify a high-performing group of candidates to provide governance leadership to the interim Māori Health Authority.
"This approach is a marker of the future health system I am seeking – that we move forward in a true partnership approach with Māori."
Members include Dr Matire Harwood, Parekawhia McLean, Tā Mark Solomon, Rāhui Papa, Kim Ngārimu, Amohaere Houkamau and Lisa Tumahai.
Budget 2021 allocated $242.8m for Māori health initiatives, including setting up the new Māori Health Authority.
Such an authority, based on "by Māori, for Māori" principles and tino rangatiratanga, self-determination, has been a long time in the making.
In 2019 the Waitangi Tribunal recommended such an agency, after finding health reforms in 2000 designed meant to close gap in health between Māori and non-Māori had failed.
Māori life expectancy remains seven years below non-Maori, and Māori fare worse in nearly every area of healthcare from cancer rates to child hospitalisations and access to health services.
The Heather Simpson review of the health and disability system last year also recommended a similar authority.
However the authority, announced as part of a range of health reforms by Little in April, has been the subject of much scrutiny.
The blueprint says the authority would be the lead commissioner of health services targeted at Māori and "act as co-commission for other health services accessed by Māori, working jointly with Health NZ to approve commissioning plans and priorities".
This element of Māori having a say over funding decisions and so-called "veto" powers around general health decisions have been the target of vehement criticism from National leader Judith Collins, who likened it to "separatism".
Little has defended functions of the authority, saying it represented partnership, a key principle of the Treaty of Waitangi, and was vital for Māori to turn around hugely inequitable health outcomes,
Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare said the authority was about enabling Māori to exercise "meaningful leadership and control over their hauora".
"I have no doubt that the considerable collective experience and connections of this group will allow them to determine the ideal mix of rangatira Māori to steer the interim Māori Health Authority forward, including its establishment and how it exercises rangatiratanga within the wider health system."
The group met for the first time last week. Their remit is to decide on their engagement process and reach out to iwi and the Māori sector on issues including candidates for the interim board and advising ministers on governance arrangements.
The group's term will run from May to July, when they will provide a shortlist of names for the interim board which would go to Cabinet for approval.
Henare said he hoped to confirm appointments to the interim board by September 1.
The Māori Health Authority Steering Group members:
• Tā Mason Durie (Rangitāne, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Raukawa): Durie has spent more than 40 years advocating for Māori and public health, and was the first Māori psychiatrist. He is Emeritus Professor of Māori Research and Development at Massey University. He has chaired and sat on numerous boards and advisory groups, and in 2020 he was appointed to the Order of New Zealand.
• Dr Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rangi, Te Mahurehure, Ngāti Hine): Harwood is a Papakura-based GP and Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Auckland.
• Parekawhia McLean (Ngāti Mahanga-Hourua, Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto): McLean is chief executive for Te Kāhui Tātari Ture/Criminal Cases Review Commission. She has worked with various health boards and has significant experience in establishing governance arrangements, including with Māori TV. Mclean is also the chairwoman of Te Whakakitenga o Waikato, the overarching tribal governance body for Waikato-Tainui.
• Tā Mark Solomon (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kurī): Solomon is chairman of the South Island's Whānau Ora commissioning agency. He was kaiwhakahaere (chairman) of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu from 1998 to December 2016. In 2013, he was recognised as Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and business.
• Rāhui Papa (Ngāti Korokī-Kahukura, Waikato-Tainui): Papa is an orator, spokesman, and expert on Waikato reo and tikanga. He has a background in broadcasting and education and has served on the Waikato-Tainui Governance Group since its inception. He is the negotiator for Waikato-Tainui's outstanding Treaty claims, and has served as a director and member of various holdings companies, ministerial committees, and national and local boards. Papa is also on the Iwi Leaders' Forum, providing advice to ministers and Crown officials.
• Kim Ngārimu (Te Aitanga ā Mate, Ngāti Porou): Ngārimu is chairwoman of Tairāwhiti District Health Board and has vast experience in public policy and management advice.
• Amohaere Houkamau (Ngati Porou, with affiliations to Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Mutunga ki Taranaki): Houkamau is general manager of Rongowhakaata Trust. She has vast governance experience and has advised on effective engagement with iwi/Māori. She is also a former CEO of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou.
• Lisa Tumahai (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Waewae, Makaawhio): Tumahai is kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. She is also a director of Te Ara Pounamu Limited and has been deputy chairwoman of the Climate Change Commission since 2019.