Today is a "big day for everyone" as New Zealand's new healthcare entities - Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority - begin.
Lakes District Health Board has now been formally abolished and, along with 19 other DHBs, will be replaced by the two entities.
Former Bay of Plenty District Health Board chairwoman Sharon Shea was appointed co-chair of the Māori Health Authority in September. The authority will jointly develop and implement a national health plan with Health New Zealand and a "draft health plan" had already been created, Shea said.
This included focuses on rural health, preventative healthcare, maternity care, workforce development and equity, she said.
Shea said it had been a "hard two years" and it was a "hard winter right now".
"We're really cognisant of the workforce in the health sector so we're looking at workforce [and] professional development. How do we get more doctors and nurses and other health professionals into the sector and stay in the sector?"
Shea said investment in preventing long-term conditions would ensure people were as healthy as they could be and thereby reduce the load on hospitals.
The new entities would also focus on the first 2000 days of a child's life, which included better maternity care, she said.
"We know that the better start a child gets, the more likely they are to be healthy and well during their lifetime.
"We're also going to focus on rural health and to make sure that we're creating more opportunities for people who live rurally to access high-quality services."
Shea said heart disease was one of the biggest determinants of mortality, so long-term conditions such as this and diabetes would also be a focus.
For Māori, the entity would invest in services and enablers such as Māori providers who prioritised Māori wellbeing.
By partnering with Health New Zealand, the Māori Health Authority would co-commission services so Māori using non-Māori services would also get "the highest quality services".
"It's a big day for everyone [today] and we're looking forward to having the launch and putting a new pair of running shoes on and starting the race again."
Outgoing Lakes District Health Board chairman Dr Jim Mather said it was "quite a poignant moment" given the board's history of more than 20 years.
Mather said it was a "period of reflection" to appreciate those who had been part of the DHB system and for their "collective efforts", which would benefit the new health system.
He remembered those who had served on the board who had died, including Sir Michael Cullen and Rob Vigor-Brown "who was very passionate about the Rotorua community".
"That said, we look to the future with hope and aspiration."
Asked about transparency and local representation, Mather said the new localities and the establishment of independent Māori partnership boards would address this.
"I think the reforms for the health system recognise that this can't be a centralised delivery service - you've got to have local community involvement and engagement.
"If you can centrally deem the key objectives, I think you've got a much better chance of achieving them."
Mather has just been appointed to the hauora Māori advisory committee, which will advise Health Minister Andrew Little on Māori Health Authority progress.
"So, I'm still going to have a role to play in the success of the new system as well."
A Lakes DHB spokesperson said the new entities would work together to create a "more equitable, accessible, cohesive and people-centred system".
The spokesperson said local health services would continue as normal.
"Patients will still be able to go to the same doctors, health centres and hospitals as they have always done.
"Health staff across the district will continue to deliver the highest standards of care and commitment to the health and wellbeing of our population."