The Waitangi Tribunal’s WAI 2575 Report: Implications for Decolonizing Health Systems
Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a treaty negotiated between Māori (the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa) and the British Crown, affirmed Māori sovereignty and guaranteed the protection of hauora (health). The Waitangi Tribunal, established in 1975 to investigate alleged breaches of the agreement, released a major report in 2019 (registered as WAI 2575) about breaches of te Tiriti within the health sector in relation to primary care, legislation, and health policy. This article explores the implications of this report for the New Zealand health sector and the decolonial transformation of health systems. The tribunal found that the Crown has systematically contravened obligations under te Tiriti across the health sector. We complement the tribunal’s findings, through critical analysis, to make five substantive recommendations: (1) the adoption of Tiriti-compliant legislation and policy; (2) recognition of extant Māori political authority (tino rangatiratanga); (3) strengthening of accountability mechanisms; (4) investment in Māori health; and (5) embedding equity and anti-racism within the health sector. These recommendations are critical for upholding te Tiriti obligations. We see these requirements as making significant contributions to decolonizing health systems and policy in Aotearoa and thereby contributing to aspirations for health equity as a transformative concept.