Te Aka Whai Ora Māori Health Authority is undertaking a programme of work to empower Māori to determine the protection and support needed for the future sustainability of rongoā.
The work programme was announced by Associate Minister of Health, Peeni Henare alongside the introduction of the Therapeutic Products Bill on 1 December 2022.
Rongoā Māori (traditional healing practices) are a taonga, and Māori tino rangatiratanga over rongoā is protected under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
The number of publicly funded rongoā services is limited, and an early priority for Te Aka Whai Ora has been to increase access to rongoā. This includes a recently announced investment of $17.6 million in mātauranga Māori services, te ao Māori solutions and population health, including rongoā Māori.
Now, Te Aka Whai Ora is focussing on the future sustainability of rongoā, so it is enabled to thrive and contribute fully to improving health outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Te Aka Whai Ora Chair, Tipa Mahuta (Waikato, Maniapoto, Ngāpuhi) says increasing the availability of rongoā and other te ao Māori services are vital to the wellbeing of whānau and communities.
“In the future, whānau will experience healthcare that looks like, feels like and reflects te ao Māori,” Ms Mahuta says.
“We will have more Māori providers funded to deliver health services that support holistic health, including spiritual health, and services that are firmly rooted in Māori knowledge.”
The Te Aka Whai Ora rongoā Māori work programme will be shaped by rongoā practitioners and whānau Māori.
It has three key workstreams intended to:
- surface Māori priorities and aspirations for preserving, protecting and supporting rongoā Māori
- understand the mechanisms that are needed within the health system to support those Māori priorities and aspirations for the sustainability and viability of these important services
- identify the funding paths and other resources needed for a sustainable rongoā Māori sector.
“A key part of Te Aka Whai Ora’s role at the heart of the new health system is to ensure the voice of whānau is heard and helps shape health services and the future of Māori health,” Ms Mahuta says.
“It is also central to Te Pae Tata, the nationwide plan that sets out the first two years of action for Te Aka Whai Ora and Te Whatu Ora as we transform the health system.
This work is particularly timely given the progress of the Therapeutic Products Bill.
“While rongoā is not specifically mentioned in the Bill, it is captured under natural products in the proposed regulations,” Ms Mahuta says.
“I know this may cause concern within the rongoā sector and Māori communities as the Bill goes through the Select Committee process.
“Our colleagues at Manatū Hauora are carrying out targeted engagement with Māori that is specific to the Bill.
“Te Aka Whai Ora’s rongoā Māori work programme is focused on empowering Maori to lead out on the current and future sustainability of rongoā.”