By: Carmen Hall
Iwi have renewed calls for a mortuary to be established in Tauranga, but it is unlikely to happen, despite more than 100 coronial autopsies being carried out every year in western Bay of Plenty.
One kaumātua described the situation as ”culturally insensitive” and said it placed a financial strain on grieving families who had to travel to be with their loved ones who had died.
‘It is heart-wrenching to have them go away somewhere else and then come back,” Ngāti Pukenga and Ngāti Tamarawaho hapu spokesman Buddy Mikaere said.
”We would support mortuary services in Tauranga to keep our people in the place they belong and close to family.”
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board closed its mortuary on January 30 2010 because it would have cost $2.5 million to upgrade it.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice obtained under the Official Information Act by the Bay of Plenty Times show that 694 autopsies on people from the Western Bay were done in Rotorua, Hamilton and Auckland from 2010 to 2016/17.
In 2016/17 80 autopsies were carried out in Rotorua, 39 in Hamilton and six in Auckland. The ministry declined to provide the cost of the autopsies as it would take substantial collation. It also did not record the number of times a pathologist travelled with the body from Tauranga.
Mikaere questioned why Tauranga, the fastest growing regional city in New Zealand, did not have a mortuary.
”It seems senseless to us, how is this actually happening? I can’t believe it … it is kind of culturally insensitive.”
When the health board closed its service, ”everybody jumped up and down”, Ngāti Ranginui kaumātua Huikakahu Kawe said.
Ngāti Ranginui iwi acting chief executive Dr Wendy Gillespie said a past solution for a mortuary included a crown/private land agreement between the Government and iwi.
”But the Government did not engage in this as an option.”
Data had identified that Māori present late to health services, and an ”impact is doctors are often unable to sign off a medical certificate of cause of death, therefore, requiring coronial services”.
”This delay brings a disruption to the grieving process … Ngāti Ranginui iwi continues to hold the creation of a Tauranga Moana-based mortuary for all peoples of the Bay as an iwi priority.”
Ministry of Justice Courts and Tribunals group manager Jacquelyn Shannon said representatives had previously met with iwi representatives from the Tauranga Moana to discuss the provision of coronial post-mortems and mortuary services to the area.
”At that time, iwi representatives reiterated their needs for Tauranga-based coronial post-mortem and mortuary services.
”Although we recognised their concerns, we advised that the ministry did not close the Tauranga mortuary.”
The health board’s decision to withdraw from providing post-mortem services in Tauranga meant the ministry had to buy those services from elsewhere, primarily in Rotorua, she said.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board quality and patient safety manager Debbie Brown said the mortuary at Tauranga Hospital did not meet accreditation standards and had to be closed.
”The provision of coronial and mortuary services sits with the Ministry of Justice, and we would be happy to work with them on any resolution.”
Legacy Funerals general manager Kiri Randall said if an autopsy were required, most families would prefer it was done locally.
Earlier this month the Rotorua Hospital mortuary, which did coronial post-mortems for the Ministry of Justice, secured a slice of $7 million of additional government funding to operate its Monday to Friday service.
Its area covered Rotorua, Tauranga, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Taupō, Turangi, down into the Desert Rd area, Tokoroa and Putāruru.
Lakes District Health Board chief executive Ron Dunham said at the time it meant less stress for local families as they were not having to travel.
Source: NZ Herald