Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Two decades of health advance

A leading Maori psychiatrist says Maori have made huge progress in dealing with mental health and addiction.

Mason Durie, the professor of Maori research and development at Massey University, told this week's trans-Tasman addictions conference in Auckland that health service delivery has been transformed over the past two decades.

Maori perspectives and practices are part of mainstream health services, and there are almost 300 independent Maori providers, compared with just three 20 years ago.

He says Maori have a better foundation to work from.

“What we've laid in the last 20 years is I think a good cultural base for understanding health problems. At last we’ve got a good sized health workforce that we didn’t have 20 years ago. And my guess is that over the next decade we will be able to tackle health problems in a much more deliberate way than has been possible to date,” Professor Durie says.

He says the health sector only picks up problems created elsewhere in society, so societal change is the key to reducing addiction levels.

HANGI TO GO GETS INTO SUPERMARKETS

The creator of a fast food hangi says Maori need to be more innovative.

Ron Smith from Matamata-based Puff'n Billy Foods says the frozen Hangi To Go will be sold through supermarkets in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Auckland.

The company also makes Hangi in a Pie.

Mr Smith says the chicken and pork meals are low in fat and salt, and put a contemporary spin on a traditional Maori food concept.

“No good tagging along with things that Pakeha already do, because they do them hell of a sight better than we do. This is one region I know we set the measure. The building of our oven, they left it completely to me to determine, because there was not a Pakeha out there that understood how the hell to cook a hangi properly,” he says.

Mr Smith says it cost the company more than $80,000 to comply with the standards needed to get Hangi To Go into supermarkets.

NEW WAKA INTO CITY’S PAST

Visitors to Christchurch can not only punt on the Avon, they can paddle on the Purukaunui.

Katoro Maori Tours lets novice paddlers have a go on its 14-seater waka Te Kowhai.

Spokesperson Dave Brennan says it's for tourists who want something adventurous than kai and kapa haka.
While they're seeing the sights along the river, which is also known as the Styx, they're getting the history of the area... including tales of co-operation when Pakeha settlers first arrived in the area.

“The ship could only come halfway up the Avon River, and they had to rely on Maori waka to get their stock further up the river bank so they could start building the city. And on the return journeys Maori would load up the waka, put all their harvest crops on there, their harakeke, put them on the ships and send them over to Sydney, so there was a commercial trade here in the city that went way back before the city was ever founded,” Mr Brennan says.

PERTH SLAYING SPARKS RETALIATION FEARS

A Maori community leader in Perth fears there could be retaliation over the death of a Maori man in a street brawl.

The 18 year old died after a fight in the eastern suburb of Lockridge between up to 20 maori and aboriginal youths.

Arawa Metekingi says there have been attempts to build bridges between Maori and Aboriginal communities since a similar brawl about 15 years ago ... but there is always tension under the surface.

He expects escalation.

“Our people are proud people, especially when somebody hurts them. Very hard to get some mediation done until something happens. I think it could escalate and there will be a battle that’s going to go down,” Mr Metekingi says.

Maori elders are seeking talks with their Aboriginal counterparts, but it may be too late.

JACKSON QUITS POLICE ROLE

An outspoken lawyer has quit as a patron of this year’s Police College intak because of the anti-terror raids on Ruatoki.

Moana Jackson says he accepted the position out of respect for the many good police officers who were trying to shift police culture.

He helped with courses for iwi liaison officers, and has been working closely on programmes for the latest class of recruits.

But the October 15 raid on Ruatoki and the arrests of Maori activists around the country made it untenable for him to continue.

“They damaged a lot of the trust they may have established, by their blatant disregard of human rights, by their abuse of women and children. We have uncovered evidence from people who have no reason to lie of absolutely appalling things that were done by the police that day,” Mr Jackson says.

He says the police deliberately excluded its senior Maori and iwi liaison officers from the anti-terror operation.

ACTION NEEDED TO ADDRESS DRINKING PROBLEMS

Concerns about Maori drinking need to be matched by action.

Hector Matthews, the Maori and Pacific manger for the Canterbury District Health Board, says Otago University research showing Maori are more likely to engage in hazardous drinking confirms what workers in the field are facing.

He says the liquor laws have become too liberal, particularly the ability to buy alcohol 24 hours a day.

“Our economic policy is out of step with our health policy, and I think our country needs to discuss quite openly whether or not we want 24 hour access to alcohol and whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs, and from a health perspective, I don't think they do,” Mr Matthews says,

If New Zealand wants to improve health outcomes for Maori, it also needs to address underlying issues of poverty and unemployment.

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