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Report on health and social needs of the Chatham Islands

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister of Health 

14 January 2014       Media Statement       

Report on health and social needs of the Chatham Islands released

Hon Tariana Turia, the Associate Minister of Health has released ‘Wharekauri, Rēkohu, Chatham Islands Health and Social Needs’ at a community hui on the Chatham Islands.  The report provides an overview of the health and social needs of the Chatham Islanders and the services that are available to meet them.  It identifies gaps in the services and discusses options to address these. 

Mrs Turia says “To live in a remote rural area is always a challenge for communities and the services that are provided for them.  This report will provide a resource for government agencies providing services on the Islands to help them to better respond to the needs of whānau/family”.   

The report shows that the primary health services on the Islands are good and there is regular access to secondary services.  These are strongly supported by services provided by Māori Community Services (part of Ha O Te Ora O Wharekauri Trust).  There is a wide range of social services available or accessible on the Islands.  Local organisations were actively involved in exploring ways to develop the economy and there was a strong sense of whānau cohesion in the community.   

The report highlighted a number of service gaps that currently exist for the community. These include the need for earlier and more effective response to mental health issues, drug and alcohol addictions, behavioural issues, and family violence.  Whānau expressed their concern whether care for people with disabilities and palliative care is appropriate.  The availability of quality housing is limited and the cost of living is high for many residents. 

Wharekauri, Rēkohu, Chatham Islands Health and Social Needs was funded by the Ministry of Health and prepared by Litmus, a social research company.   

Speech:Chatham Islands Health and Social Needs Report

Tuesday 14 January 2014; 6pm

Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health

Waitangi Hall; Waitangi, Chatham Islands

I want first to acknowledge Alfred Preece, the Mayor, Joe Tapara, nga kuia, nga pahake, nga rangatahi, tēnā koutou katoa.

I want to mihi to all of you who hold mana Whenua status on this island and those of you who have made this island home. It is with such pleasure that I have come here especially to launch the Wharekauri, Rekohu, Chatham Islands Health and Social Needs report.

This is an immensely special place. It is so wonderful to be able to start this year – my last year as a member of parliament – in this beautiful island in which anything is possible.

Into this place you have created and negotiated a sacred covenant of peace for yourselves as island people.

I want to say from the outset, that the building of relationships between Ngati Mutunga o Wharekauri Iwi Trust; Hokotehi Moriori Trust; and members of the Pitt Islands community is vital if we want to make the difference. It is essential free and frank communication is normalised as being in the best interests of all who live on the island.

Overlapping claims between Moriori and Ngati Mutunga have been a key focus for discussion; communication has been fundamental in paving the way forward. It's really important that we focus on relationships. We need to look at what unites us not what divides us.

On a daily basis whanau have grappled with the challenge of achieving their greatest aspirations in health and wellbeing. The high cost of living; issues with infrastructure and the full spectrum of government facilities have all created pressures that could threaten security or peace of mind.

Yet through the most rugged terrain and remote landscape, the sun has continued to shine, fresh winds have continued to blow; there is a constant spirit of regeneration and growth.

Nowhere was there better evidence of this than in two statements that leapt out of the pages of this report.

One was the words of a resident ; ‘we are strong, resilient, adaptive with a hint of stubbornness’. The other was from a service provider, “if you see something you do it. Help whanau from womb to tomb”.

I have to admit, coming from a smaller rural community outside of Whanganui, I certainly appreciate the gritty determination and fierce independence that defines the way in which you live. But the fact that you have nerves of steel should not disqualify you from receiving the very best support and care in improving the quality of your lives. And I say that because sometimes, when we say communities are resilient, we then mean we'll leave them alone - and this is not what this is about!

And that is why I am so pleased that, well over ten years since the previous survey of your health and wellbeing, we now have a rich collection of stories from which to understand your needs and ability to access and participate in services.

And I want to acknowledge from the outset, the generous support of the many people within this community who gave their time to Litmus researchers when they visited in June last year. Thank you, also, to Litmus in preparing this report and Liz Smith who is here to present the findings of the report.

The report has benefitted from the expert assistance of the Chair of the Ha o te Ora o Wharekauri Trust, Eileen Whaitiri and her staff. I want to also record our gratitude to the Maori Community Services, particularly Barby Joyce, the Health Centre and staff of the Hawkes Bay District Health Board.

One of the issues that has particularly stood out for me is around the interface between disability services and ACC.

I am alarmed to hear that in some cases people on the island have been significantly hurt, and yet have continued on to try to fulfil employment expectations and life-as-usual without support being forthcoming. I am told that the opportunities for engagement with ACC have been in themselves too hard, and as a consequence the people have continued on regardless of the serious injuries incurred.

I would have thought early intervention may well improve the long term prognosis for people living on the island with disabilities resulting from injuries such as these; and indeed would surely help to improve and prolong a meaningful working life and wellbeing.

Before we came over to the island, I met with officials and asked for advice from a virtual cast of players, including:

• The Ministry of Health

• The Hawkes Bay District Health Board

• The Ministry of Social Development

• The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – and the specific sectors of housing, telecommunications, energy and resources

• The Ministry of Education

• Accident Compensation Corporation

• and Te Puni Kokiri.

To be frank, I was not satisfied with the some of the service gaps identified in the Litmus report, including aspects such as housing quality, respite care for people with disability and aged persons; injury prevention or telecommunications.

I am, however, really pleased that in response to the findings of the report, there has been a genuine commitment to meet with your communities over the coming year.

A number of government agencies have declared they will be holding community meetings here over the coming year, including Hawkes Bay DHB; Options Hawkes Bay Support Services and the Social Housing Unit. I am really pleased that this intention has been signalled, and I am thinking that the navigator type role, of connecting people up to vital services, could be really important in the long-term plan.

There are other highlights that we can share with you, including:

• the appointment of a permanent General Practitioner with a background in mental health and rural medicine;

• continuing support for the Whanau Ora provider and ongoing visits from our wonderful champion, Charmeyne Te Nana-Williams;

• improved coverage and price of broadband to schools and the health clinic;

• upgrading of the Kaingaroa water supply;

• and decisions on the use of the Prime Minister’s $400,000 social housing grant. We want you to tell us how we should best use that funding.

It’s also really important to me to know that more regular visits to Pitt Island will take place, to ensure increased access to services. The report reminds us, if we needed reminding, that there are significant cost and geographical barriers for Pitt Islands in accessing primary health care and that visits to the island, if at all, are sporadic. We've just been told today that the Principal of the school and his family is leaving, bringing the numbers of students at the school from six to two.

I think one of the statements that most resonated with me reading the Litmus report, was the vision statement laid down by Maori Community Services, and that is:

“the whanau having created an outstanding enviable environment and standard of living that now see our people and mokopuna living well, linked to our tupuna, with opportunity and wealth in all its forms, and with the mana of all islanders ensured”.

There’s something so beautiful about that statement – and what I want most happen tonight, is to hear from you how best you think we can achieve the transformation to make this vision happen for you all.

I’m really interested in hearing from you whether you believe a whole-of-island strategy will create the difference you need and whether a Whānau Ora focussed strategy should be a first step to the whole-of-island strategy.

The report we have launched tonight clearly identifies your amazing strengths – your resilience, your ability to face difficulties and your willingness to work together.

I want to commend your courage and honour your initiative for knowing, seeing and doing what you need to, in your quest for wellness. That hint of stubbornness you are blessed with has created the independence of thinking that we all need to have.

I hope that we – as Ministers, as representatives of government departments, as officials – will listen to you carefully, will learn from you what it is that needs to be acted upon, and will take your stories with us when we go back to Wellington and ensure agencies continue to engage with you all.

I want to acknowledge especially, my colleague Chris Finlayson who has brought some commitment and dedication to the opportunities that we know are here within the Chathams.

Finally, one of the illustrations that took my eye in the report is the delicate strength and vivid beauty of the Chatham Island forget-me-not.

For those unfamiliar to this herbaceous plant, you might expect to find it growing wild amongst kelp drift or paua shells at Kaingaroa Point or in the Henga Scenic Reserve.

The plant has recently been threatened by noxious weeds, and the grazing and trampling of animal stock. Yet despite the harshness of the climate and environment, this plucky little plant continues to produce an exquisite shade of blue flowers.

But it’s not just the blooms that take your breath away. If it has light shade and a moist rich soil, the flowers grow out of the most stunning foliage of thick glossy leaves which make this plant truly spectacular.

It tells me everything about what is possible here on Wharekauri, Rekohu, Chatham and Pitt Islands.

With all the right nurturing and support in place; and the foundation of a collective base, all of your families are indeed capable of thriving and achieving the greatest aspirations that you set for yourself - not what public servants think best for you, but what you set for yourselves.

I hope that something really fruitful comes out of our visit and see this as an opportunity to put forward your views.

Thank you again for your generosity in hosting us here tonight and over the week. Tena koutou katoa.

ENDS

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