A Better Start board member Sharon Shea will help shape some of the major changes to the country’s health system with her appointment as Co-Chair of the Māori Health Authority and a board member of Health New Zealand.

Sharon (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Hako) is one of a group of people with extensive and wide-ranging governance and health experience whose appointments to lead the Māori Health Authority and Health New Zealand were announced by Health Minister Andrew Little today (September 23).

Sharon has been a board member for A Better Start National Science Challenge for the past 18 months, and earlier this year, she was appointed as the the first-ever permanent Māori Chair of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

In a media release from the BOP District Health Board today, Sharon said the creation of the Māori Health Authority marked “a moment of significance in our history”.

“I have every confidence that collectively, we can make a sustainable difference in supporting those who need our support the most.”

Health New Zealand will bring together the country’s 20 DHBs, a workforce of about 80,000, an annual operating budget of $20 billion and an asset base of about $24 billion. The Māori Health Authority will work alongside Health New Zealand with a joint role in developing system plans, commissioning for primary and community services, and will commission kaupapa Māori services. The Māori Health Authority will also work alongside the Ministry of Health to develop strategies and policies that work for Māori.

Tipa Mahuta, current Deputy Chair of the Counties Manukau District Health Board, will work alongside Sharon as Co-Chair of the Māori Health Authority.

“As a proud New Zealander and a proud indigenous woman and one-day grandmother, I would like to see every mokopuna in Aotearoa New Zealand flourishing, thriving, and realising the rangatiratanga they were born with,” says Sharon in the BOP DHB release. “Persistent, unfair, and unjust inequities are an anathema to mokopuna oranga and the fabric of New Zealand’s society.

“As Kiwis, we need to harness our aspiration to support and enhance the success and wellbeing of all New Zealanders and a big part of this is showcasing and cherishing the beauty and wisdom abundant in te Ao Māori. Proactive, mutually supportive, and innovative relationships between Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti are our future. We should embrace the change and reflect it within our new outcome-focused and equitable health system.”

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said the new Māori Health Authority was a gamechanger.

“It will grow kaupapa Māori services and give Māori a strong voice in a new system focused on improving the disproportionate health outcomes that have long affected our whanau”

Health Minister Andrew Little added that the members of the new boards shared a dedication to improve the country’s health and wellbeing with a strong community focus.

“I am confident our new health entities are in the best possible hands to drive this long overdue transformation,” he said.