“ Doctors’ expenses are very heavy, and many die in consequence. It costs from £5 ss. to £10 10s. to obtain the services of a medical man from Dunedin, and £3 3s. from Palmerston. Some patients if not too ill can be taken to the doctor, but others cannot be moved. Do not know how a great many of the old people live, except by the hospitality of others (te aroha o te Maori (Hoani Matiu:, AJHR 1891 G7: 370)”
The above statement was made by the Ngāi Tahu elder Hoani Matiu before a Royal Commission established in 1890 to report on the condition of Ngāi Tahu. New Zealand has had many moments of shame in its history and the evidence provided to this Commission revealed the conditions of absolute poverty that our people lived in and the conditions under which they suffered. The Rev. James Stack, Anglican Minister to our people would write of the ‘tingling blush of shame’ he would feel when our elders visited him. He wrote,
… The old chiefs are now dead, their last years so many of them having been embittered by the want of the common necessaries of life, such as food, clothing and firing, of which they were deprived …
Anyone wishing to understand the context of our need for health care should read the Commission Report. Ngāi Tahu were promised schools and hospitals upon their Reserves and while our people provided the land – no medical care was provided and the suffering was considerable. In fact by the 1890’s it was becoming common place to see our people as eventually dying away. Few cared.
It is a matter of pride that Ngāi Tahu can now work with the Health Precinct Advisory Council. The challenge is to never allow our people to suffer again and ensure they have food, clothing, shelter, warmth and of course health care.
But we should also remember that the corner stone of our people’s wellbeing is what our elder Hoani Matiu said, ‘te aroha o te Māori’.
Te Maire Tau
Ūpoko, Ngāi Tūāhuriri