ACC and Rongoā Māori

Rongoā Māori - Northland Story

For Te Houtaewa Māori Trust, their primary purpose is to provide product and services to the response of the Te Tai Tokerau community request for “Healthy Whanau, Happy Whanau and Our Voices are Heard.”  

As a result, we have been working with Kaumatua & Kuia, Tohunga, Healers and Practitioners to provide Rongoa Māori services and model of care at Kaitaia Hospital. We are taking a whānau centred approach – If a patient is using or wants to use Rongoā we are here to advocate and support that treatment plan for the whānau. Enabling the community to access culturally appropriate care in Māori values nurtures cultural identity and affirms the legitimacy of mātauranga Māori at the same time ensuring that our practice and service is for all. 

For Teresa Hart making rongoā Māori an integral part of the health services as a dual provision is her drive.  Although initially she never asked for the role, she is humbled by the fact that the Kuia & Kaumatua knew of her destiny prior to her time and planted seeds all along her journey.  “What we learn in our deepest grief helps us to overcome and to be there to help others”.  Hart acknowledges all the influences that have supported her on this journey.  

“I have a responsibility to Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu Rongoā.  Te Houtaewa Maori Trust, is the kaitiaki to NNTR, so when the role was available to lead their trust, the whakapapa was there for Rongoa and I realised it was now time to activate what was being prepared for so long.   Hart, the Kaiwhakahaere Lead for the Te Houtaewa Maori Trust, was is engaging with Rongoa Maori networks to setup facilities in communities purposely for whanau to attend, a reality in the far north. 

Dr. Joel Pirini (Kaitaia Hospital) “The western or the mainstream health model is recognized that we don’t have all the answers and that maybe the solutions we’ve tried to come up with overtime haven’t been very patient or whanau cantered and so we’ve reflected on that and gone out to the people and asked what they want what they need”.  

 “Rongoā is a traditional Māori practice of healing gifts, handed down to the chosen one at the exact time that it is required for the giver and the receiver. that involves karakia (prayer) whiti-whiti korero (talk) mirimiri (massage) and rakau rongoa (native herbal remedies). 

The healing starts instantly when the mauri connects.  Taha wairua (spiritual), Taha hinengaro (emotion), Taha tinana (physical) Taha whānau (family and social) and Whenua (land and roots). 

Hart, who was born and bred in Ngāpuhi, returned home from Melbourne after 20 years to be closer to her Dad as his health deteriorated, which would be a turning point for Hart. 

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to be that for Dad but he made me promise that I would look after many more people going forward,” she says.  

 Hart now leads a Pilot Project for rongoā Māori in the Kaitaia Hospital which she says is growing significantly in awareness and popularity.  

“Because of COVID-19 our people in the far north are dealing with pressures they haven’t faced before,” she says. “People are really struggling.”  

She says rongoā Māori is for all ages and ethnicities.  

Some whānau are bringing long-term cancer patients to use rongoā Māori. Kaitaia Hospital is right alongside Kaitaia College and as a result they get a number of students who coming “running through the doors” for help with sensitive claims.  

One of the barriers Hart came across in delivering rongoā Māori at Kaitaia Hospital was they were operating in a borrowed space (the marae) as Kaitaia Hospital is currently going through renovations.  

“We looked at our operation in the new world with COVID-19 and we wanted to be able to operate regardless of the Alert Level,” she says.  

To fix the problem, Hart has set up a cabin at the front of the Kaitaia Hospital which is dedicated to rongoā Māori.  

“We are an essential service for many people. We need to be able to serve our people at all levels and ensure they feel safe when they come into that space. 

“We don’t want to be in a situation where COVID-19 hits and we are pushed away. We have to come forward more.”  

Used by Māori in Aotearoa for centuries, rongoā remains a popular healing option.   

As of June 2020, rongoā Māori has been offered as a service by ACC.   

If ACC agrees to provide cover for a person’s injury, the person can ask ACC to pay for rongoā Māori as part of their rehabilitation.  

Hart says it’s “awesome” that ACC has recognised rongoā Māori.  

“It’s acknowledges that rongoā Māori contributes to the care and recovery of that person,” she says.  

“I’m experiencing an overwhelming expression of interest to be part of that, both in our practitioners and our clients.”  

From June 2020 to August 2021 there have been 805 people use rongoā Māori services in Northland.  

Māori (576) make up the majority ahead of NZ European / Pakeha (183), Pasifika (25) and other ethnicities (21).  

ACC Tumu Pae Ora (Chief Māori and Equity Officer) Michelle Murray says the rongoā Māori service is a programme by Māori, with Māori, for Māori and available to people of all ethnicities. 

“We have enabled access to rongoā Māori services (traditional Māori healing) to improve equity of choice, access, experience, and outcomes for Māori,” says Murray.  

“We recognise we need to offer a choice of support services that reflect tikanga Māori and te ao Māori to uphold our Te Tiriti o Waitangi responsibilities.”   

Murray says ACC data shows Māori are more likely to sustain a serious, life-changing injury, but less likely to access ACC services. 

“We want to bring more Māori to ACC to support better health outcomes; enabling tikanga-aligned services is one way we can do that,” she says.  

“It’s positive to see that two thirds of those using our rongoā Māori service are Māori.”  

ACC data shows that 83 percent of clients who received rongoā care in the last calendar year no longer need ongoing support from ACC. And of the clients that have used the service only 1.2 percent have lodged a subsequent claim (for the same injury site) to date.  

Hart says relationships are critical to achieving positive health outcomes in the far north. She is committed to fulfilling her promise.   

“A lot of Māori simply don’t understand the options that are available to them so we need to build that awareness,” she says. 

“The message is getting out to all ages about the benefits of rongoā Māori and there is more to come. We are focused on getting our people the help and the support they need.”  


ACC and rongoā Māori 

  • ACC data shows that Māori are more likely to sustain a serious, life-changing injury but are less likely to access ACC services  
  • The data tells us Māori are 25% less likely to make a claim with us than non-Māori 
  • As of at the end of August 2021, we had approved rongoā Māori for around 1,200 claims and funded nearly 7,245 sessions  
  • One in four of those clients hadn’t previously received other forms of ACC care or treatment before benefitting from rongoā  
  • Rongoā Māori is available to clients on request and can be used as standalone care or in conjunction with other treatment  
  • There are around 100 ACC-registered rongoā Māori practitioners in New Zealand, from Te Araroa to Dunedin