Fury over closure of Maori service

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene is questioning why more is not being done to save a Maori health organisation which is set to close.

Te Rapuora o te Waiharakeke, which has a $1.6 million budget and works with 192 people in Nelson and 500 in Marlborough, will close at the end of the year because of financial problems.

Mr Tirikatene said he was furious that the organisation would wind up after providing a mental health service for the past 26 years.

He said he wanted to know why the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board did not give Te Rapuora more time, money and assistance.

"Essentially Te Rapuora experienced what every other small business in New Zealand has experienced these past two years. There's no shame in seeking business mentoring advice and the like," he said.

"Te Rapuora have built up a client list that number in the hundreds, and to suddenly have to hand over their list to a new service provider is heartbreaking for staff and clients. There should have been a better solution."

The DHB was holding its monthly board meeting today.

The board's director of Maori health, Harold Wereta, has said it had worked closely with the trust to find a solution but it was not possible, and work would continue with all Maori health providers in the region to develop a Maori provider coalition.

Mr Tirikatene said: "Te Rapuora have built their reputation over 26 years. Clients trust them and it's the clients that are top priority. Upheaval and change preys easy on a delicate mind. What a terrible thing to happen over the Christmas season."

Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street said she was disturbed at Te Rapuora's closure

"I am concerned that in the course of handing services over to a range of different Maori service providers, that the dislocation will cause some patients to fall through the cracks. I am especially concerned about the mental health services they provided. They worked hard to provide good services in this area and these will be the people most vulnerable to change and dislocation."

Ms Street said she would keep a close eye on the DHB to make sure it delivered the same services through other providers and protected those at greatest risk. "This is sad for Te Rapuora. I just hope the services will continue."

Te Rapuora has eight staff in Nelson and 22 in Blenheim who face losing their jobs and it is uncertain whether they will be employed by other health providers.

It is understood the decision to close Te Rapuora followed a financial review.

Trust manager Aroha Metcalf said on Friday that it had a projected budget of $1.6m for 2013, with most of that from the DHB and the rest from smaller contracts with the health and social development ministries.

Some of the financial difficulty was in operating from two bases and lease arrangements that had been entered into when the market was at its peak, she said. Cost cutting such as reducing fulltime administration positions was not enough, and it could not balance the books.

The Nelson Mail