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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

$2.3 million for Maori in health research funds

Maori are among the biggest winners in the latest round of health research funding.

The chief executive of the government funded Health Research Council Dr Robin Olds says the specific needs of Maori have been recognised with over $2.3 million dedicated to Maori health research.

“The council recognised the particular challenges facing Maori in relation to health and we’re very happy this year as in previous years to be able to support some very high quality research proposals led by some well known Maori health researchers,” Dr Olds says.

Projects to receive funding include continuing research into vision impairment where an earlier study found 42 percent of Maori children with kapo had not had the cause of their sight problems diagnosed, a study into the poor health of Maori babies, and various studies around cancer care for Maori..


The Labour candidate in the Mt Albert bi-election David Shearer says Maori will be particularly affected by secret government plans to stop local councils having any social or environmental role.

David Shearer says a cabinet paper shows facilities like recreation and community centres, which Maori are high users of, are under threat from Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.

“It’s a real backward step because he’s trying to limit the local government functions, just transport, water services, public health and safety and completely ignores the cultural dynamics, the environmental dynamics and the social things going on in councils as well which are an integral part of a council's functions,” Mr Shearer says.

The proposed measures will also take away Maori involvement in environmental issues.


Ngati Whatua o Orakei has received an environmental award for walking the talk on environmental issues.

The Auckland hapu won the Ministry of Environment’s Green Ribbon Award for its commitment to zero waste management in the events it runs and in the management of its marae.

Ngarimu Blair says the iwi have made a commitment to back up the korero spoken in wharenui around the rohe.

“We are just trying to be as consistent as we can with the talk we have in our meeting house around Papatuanuku, Ranginui, Tangaroa, and whanaungatanga, looking after each other in the environment, how can we put it in practice so how could we celebrate Waitangi Day, our culture, of we are destroying it by creating a huge amount of rubbish and waste which pollutes the whenua,” Mr Blair says.

As well as hosting a zero waste Waitangi Day concert at Okahu Bay every year, the iwi runs a tree nursery and a tree planting project which every year plants 20,000 native trees.


Mt Albert bi-election Labour candidate David Shearer says there will be less Maori voice in environmental decision making under proposals in a secret cabinet paper to limit council's role to core functions rather than social, cultural and environmental activities.

David Shearer, who did his masters degree in association with Tainui on how Maori values are brought into environmental decision making before going overseas to work with indigenous populations, says the moves being promoted by Local Government minister Rodney Hide are alarming.

“What’s going to happen is we’re going to have less Maori voice in environmental decision making and I think that‘s a backward step and it goes back to the 1980s where Maori values were not being incorporated as they should have been,” Mr Shearer says.

The moves, which come on top of excluding Maori from the decision making table in Auckland super city, will mean a lot of people will not have a say in the way the city's resources are used.


The importance of addressing Maori health issues has been recognised in the latest round of health research funding.

The chief executive of the government funded Health Research Council Dr Robin Olds says $2.3 million has been dedicated to funding research into Maori health issues.

“In particular we’ve funded a number of projects, one of which is looking at blindness and its effects among Maori and how they can access care. We’re also better able to support projects addressing some needs arising out of communities being able to better access health care,” Dr Olds says.

A number of research projects into cancer among Maori will also be funded.


Meanwhile Tainui health leaders say they have picked up a few tips on a trip to the UK which they believe will be useful in providing health services to Maori.

Raukura Hauora O Tainui chief executive Wayne Mclean says Coventry's University Hospital and The St Cross Hospital in Rugby in particular mirrored aspects of the ethnicity population of South Auckland, and the rohe of Tainui.

“There are numerous examples we can take away in terms of some of our aspirations for improving Maori health; things like children’s centres, certainly the concept of a drop in centre having an integrated super clinic,” Mr McLean says.

Raukura Hauora is looking at how to apply some of the initiatives gleaned from the trip.


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