A question of partnership – a humbling experience

27 February 2024

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao chairperson Mapihi Raharuhi and Pinnacle chief executive Justin Butcher. PHOTO/SARAH SPARKS

Kia ora, tēnā koe,

On 1 October 2023 I joined some of my Pinnacle colleagues, our kaumātua, and members of our board and Māori governance rōpū in Rōtorua to officially gift one of our practices, Ōwhata Medical Centre, to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao. Gifting a practice to an iwi is something we’d never done before, and from what I quickly came to learn, no-one else in Aotearoa New Zealand has either.

Sometimes you find yourself in a moment that is so overwhelming, you might not even recognise it at the time. Walking onto Pounamunui Marae near Okere Falls with my team was one of those moments for me. The kāranga and pōwhiri from Ngāti Pikiao was so powerful and humbling, I don’t mind admitting my eyes were a bit watery. But I want to be clear – that day and this occasion wasn't about Pinnacle. It was about Ngāti Pikiao. We were just there to help – to facilitate something we don’t mind saying we’re proud to be a part of.

We didn't plan for this to be a big media story. For us, it was about making a difference, not seeking thanks or recognition. The heart of it was realising how this initiative could create a lasting impact for the health of whānau Māori, now and for generations to come. And it got me thinking, maybe others could do similar good things too. I’m not suggesting every PHO gifts a practice, or that it’s even logistically easy – because it’s not and there’s a lot to consider – but I’m now even more inspired than ever to look at opportunities to work together and collaborate on initiatives that can truly make a difference in health outcomes.

'Treaty partners' is a phrase we hear often, but what does it mean in practice? How do we make sure it's more than just words? As a CEO of a primary health organisation and a critical care flight paramedic, I see firsthand the impact of health disparities across communities. While addressing health inequities requires more than words, the concept of Treaty partnership offers a powerful framework for progress. By working together, we can create meaningful change that leads to better health outcomes for everyone in New Zealand.

That's why we stand behind policies that pave the way for iwi-led, Māori focused solutions. We believe that's our best shot at making real, positive changes in the healthcare system.

The event at Pounamunui Marae was extraordinary. Watching Ngāti Pikiao officially receive Ōwhata Medical Centre was an indescribable moment. Rangatira from Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao Trust stood and praised Pinnacle’s generosity, and we felt extremely humbled.

But for us, this is just the beginning. We're excited to continue this journey, strengthening our ties with Māori communities across the regions we serve in Te Manawa Taki Midlands. Stepping into the world of te ao Māori is indeed challenging, but incredibly enriching. My biggest lesson? Be authentic, be humble, and listen. It's not about imposing our ideas – it's about being patient, respectful, and waiting for the right moments to contribute.

We're all in this together, and there are always opportunities to do things differently, and better. Together, let's create a future where healthcare is accessible to everyone, where partnerships are genuine, and where kindness and understanding pave the way. So many people have asked me and my team why Pinnacle gifted Ōwhata Medical Centre to the iwi of Ngāti Pikiao, and our rationale has now been printed in multiple media.  But there’s a much shorter answer which really explains it all; quite simply, it was the right thing to do. 

Ngā mihi
Justin Butcher