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Speech: Launch of Quit Bus, Manurewa Marae

Hon Tariana Turia

Associate Minister for Health

Thursday 20 February 2014 SPEECH

Launch of Quit Bus

Manurewa Marae

Finlayson Avenue, Manurewa, South Auckland

[Delivered by George Ngatai, on her behalf, as a result of travel disruptions]

Tena koutou katoa

Ka mihi atu au ki te tangata whenua, te hau kainga, nau te reo i karanga mai ki a matou, i mihi mai ki a matou tenei ope.

Ki te ope kua huihui mai i te ra nei, mo tenei hui whakahirahira – tena koutou, tena koutou, aa tena tatou katoa.

I want to thank

• Geraint Martin – the Chief Executive of Counties Manukau District Health Board,

• Dame June Mariu; the Patron for Transitioning Out Aotearoa and also Areta Kopu as a newly appointed board member;

• and John Ross, the Chief Executive of Comprehensive Care in Association with Waitemata PHO for the invitation to this very important day.

I want to acknowledge too, the generosity of the collective hapu that comprise Mana Whenua i Tamaki Makaurau – Ngati Naho; Ngati Te Ata; Ngai Tai; Ngati Amaru; Ngati Tamaoho; Kawerau-a-Maki; Aki Tai; Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tahinga and Ngati Tipa.

You have come together to achieve a shared purpose. You are all to be commended for the fortitude, the foresight and the focus that you have demonstrated in your quest to safeguard the hauora of your people.

Today that quest takes on a new turn, through the concept of the Quit Bus.

This is a project which represents a unique collaboration between a district health board, a primary health organisation and a non-government organisation. It is a wonderful weaving together of diverse peoples and purposes, for the specific aim of eradicating smoking in Aotearoa and I applaud your initiative in making it happen.

The concept of a bus as a vehicle for revolution is of course familiar to any of us with an activist appreciation of change.

Close to sixty years ago, Rosa Parks, an African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded the Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On that bus on that day she sat in the middle of the bus just behind the seats reserved for white passengers.

When a white man entered the bus, the driver insisted that the four African American passengers give up their seats for him. Rosa refused – saying that “when I made that decision I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”

The news spread like wildfire and in cities across the South the local people boycotted the segregated buses, eventually leading to a massive campaign which transformed civil rights in the United States.

Just across the Tasman, fifty years ago, Aboriginal student, Charlie Perkins led a group of fellow students in the New South Wales Freedom Rides. 29 people literally boarded a bus that travelled through the state, exposing the discrimination against and mistreatment of indigenous Australians.

The bus we are boarding today, is, therefore another vessel of change in this proud history.

The Quit Bus is a visible vehicle of challenge - speaking out against tobacco smoking as the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand.

I can never say it enough – that I find it utterly unacceptable that every year about five thousand people in Aotearoa die from a smoking related illness.

These long-term smokers – who are our friends and whanau – lose on average, fifteen years of life.

Of that group of five thousand, about 350 are innocent New Zealanders who die as a result of second hand smoke – children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of tobacco fumes upon their lives. I want to really mihi to the Mana Whenua i Tamaki Makaurau – for your stand over five years ago, in declaring your marae smokefree.

You have shown your communities that the advertising, selling or use of tobacco on your marae is considered a serious challenge to your tikanga. Indeed, you have made ‘auahi kore’ part of your tikanga – the operating values that underpin your work.

I love that commitment and that passion to make this concept happen on your marae.

In many ways this is what we mean when we speak about the goal of a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.

At a Government level we want to see all our tamariki and mokopuna living lives free of tobacco. We are aiming to facilitate a Smokefree Aotearoa by a number of bold actions, including:

• increasing the excise tax on tobacco products

• removing tobacco displays from retail outlets

• raising the fines on selling tobacco to people under 18 years

• and working towards plain packaging.

But we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that what we do in Wellington will be enough to achieve the difference.

And that is why I am so excited by the innovative approaches we have seen right around the motu to reduce smoking prevalence.

The Pathway to Smokefree New Zealand 2025 Innovation Fund is one such opportunity to urgently reduce smoking rates.

And this is where we get back on the bus – the Quit Bus.

From this year on, these two vans will be out and about around Tāmaki delivering the Smokefree message and providing assistance and support for people to quit. Some of those people are here today – and I want to mihi to you for the part you will play in helping to create the transformation we need.

Last year I launched a report, Te Ara Whakapiki Taitamariki – Youth 12 – which reported on the aspirations and frustrations of young Māori secondary school students. One of the facts that really stood out for me that 71% of the current smokers had tried to quit or cut down.

All of the research tells us that our Māori, Pasifika and low socio-economic communities are prepared to quit, but they need better access to cessation services that are more attractive and acceptable. A mobile quit bus was specifically identified by current smokers as something that would help them quit.

In essence it’s about making the means of quitting, much more accessible to our local communities.

It means going smokefree is something that can be achieved ‘just down the road’ – and it shows the effectiveness and the importance of everyone working together, collaboratively to achieve the single outcome of a smokefree Aotearoa.

Finally, I want to return to this theme of the revolution of change that we saw through the various bus journeys across the globe that I referred to earlier.

We must also be our own drivers of change in every whanau, every aiga, every family.

We need to precipitate behaviour change not just with individuals but with the whole home. It is about changing the patterns, the rules of behaviour, to make being auahi kore part of our culture and tikanga; part of our framework for life.

Projects like the Quit Bus initiative will make a huge contribution – and I wish Counties Manukau DHB, Waitemata PHO and Transitioning out Aotearoa every success for this project.

But the bus will not travel unless it has a driver and passengers ready on board – and that is where we all have a part in the journey.

Yes, the Smokefree 2025 goal is ambitious – but I have no problem with being driven by an ambition for a healthier, stronger future.

This is about our babies, our mokopuna, being supported to thrive – and for that, I would hope all of us would stand up and be proud to get on the bus and make it happen.

Tena tatou katoa.

ENDS

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