healthcare provider Kawerau

Joint venture brings equitable healthcare to Kawerau

A new integrated primary healthcare GP practice is coming for Kawerau as Tarawera Medical announces new ownership.

The practice will now be owned in a partnership between Mataatua-based hauora provider Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, Green Cross Health, a provider of primary health care services across New Zealand, as well as Ngāti Tūwharetoa Bay of Plenty Settlement Trust, representing mana whenua within Tūwharetoa mai Kawerau ki te Tai.

Remaining long-term general practitioners of the practice, Dr Tony Whitehead and Dr Mick Lavelle, have praised the changes.

“We are excited about this new venture and all the new benefits that Te Puna Ora o Mataatua will be able to offer to our patients to supplement the services that we have provided in the past. We feel that this can only benefit you, our patients as we move forward into the future together.” – Dr Tony Whitehead.

The whānau GP surgery based in Kawerau, currently offers a full range of general practice and nursing services to whānau living in the area.

Dr Mick Lavelle says enrolled patients can feel confident knowing nothing changes.

“Dr Tony Whitehead, all of our current staff and me, will continue to deliver the same quality service we have provided for Kawerau whānau for the past few decades.

“Our doctors stay the same, the building stays the same, and the staff stays the same, with no changes to Tarawera Medical in the short term.”

Ngāti Tūwharetoa BoP Settlement Trust appreciates the improvements for the community the partnership will bring.

Chairperson Karilyn Te Riini says partnering with Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and a sophisticated medical health provider allows Tarawera Medical to better understand and address the unique healthcare needs of the community.

“Building and strengthening the partnership with Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and Green Cross Health is essential to improve the coordination of care and address unmet healthcare needs in Kawerau.

“We entered this partnership to provide healthcare options to Ngāti Tūwharetoa beneficiaries, to sustain and improve patient care, make healthcare more affordable and accessible for patients and to offer a high-quality medical service in Kawerau.

“While this transition takes place, we want to ensure consistency through continuing the same level of service delivery, same location and staff while introducing the values and guiding aspirations of the partners.”

Kawerau Mayor, Faylene Tunui, welcomes the announcement of the new partnership for Tangata Whenua and the Kawerau Community.

She says the wait time for doctor appointments continued to be raised by many in the community as was widely publicised in April 2023.

“Tangata whenua co-ownership is ground-breaking and we applaud the Ngāti Tuwharetoa BoP Settlement Trust, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and Green Cross Health for ensuring primary healthcare for the people of Kawerau is kept local.

“The Ngāti Tūwharetoa BoP Settlement Trust is tied to this place – to the land and to the community – and so we know that they bring a commitment to Kawerau that transcends across generations.

“I’d like to pay tribute to Drs Whitehead and Lavelle, who’ve cared for the people of Kawerau for over three decades and will continue to care for our people through the launch of the new partnership. We recognise their long service to our community. And we look ahead to the innovations that local, tangata whenua co-ownership brings.”

Green Cross Health highlights the benefits of the new partnership that will continue to evolve healthcare to whānau in Kawerau.

Green Cross Health General Manager Medical Wayne Woolrich says the new partnership will bring benefits to the practice through the skills, expertise, leadership, and scale the partners bring to Tarawera Medical with an aim to provide Kawerau with high-quality, equitable and accessible healthcare service.

He says the initial focus of the partnership will be bedding support for the team to continue the important mahi day in and day out. Then, working on how to source improved funding to offer greater options to patients.

“Working together with our partners and the team to ensure we meet the expectations of the Kawerau community to reduce the unenrolled patient population in Kawerau is key to our joint success.

”We can do this by providing great access and practice capacity for new patient enrolments that will ultimately ensure better outcomes for their whanau health and wellbeing.”

Te Puna Ora o Mataatua Manahautū Chief Executive Dr Chris Tooley says the venture has Kawerau whānau at the front of mind.

“Together with our integrated approach and Green Cross’s systems and infrastructure, we can work with mana whenua on defining a strategy that helps Kawerau whānau access primary care on their own terms.” – Dr Chris Tooley

“This might look like hosting mobile clinics at marae around Kawerau.

“It also means for Te Puna Ora o Mataatua that we can walk in both worlds and provide both Te Ao Māori and mainstream contracts.”

He says the overarching goal of the new acquisition is to ensure Kawerau will be able to access services that would be ordinarily available in Whakatāne, helping to provide more equity and access to quality healthcare.

“As part of our integrated model, we deliver many services across Mataatua and Whakatāne is currently the central pou of this model.

“Often this means when we have teams working in places like Kawerau and they need to do a GP referral, this is sent back to Rehua Medical in Kōpeopeo, which isn’t practical for whānau living outside of Whakatāne.

“Having Tarawera Medical under our umbrella means that when teams are working in places like Kawerau, they’re able to make GP referrals to a local clinic, so we can provide integrated support beyond Whakatāne and into Kawerau.”

Dr Chris Tooley says the acquisition is an extension of an expansion of Te Puna Ora o Mataatua services happening across the wider rohe.

“When you look at what we’ve implemented with the rollout of our Te Puna Manawa o Rangitāiki team in Te Teko and this new acquisition at Tarawera Medical, our goal is to create hubs around the wider region.

“Whakatāne will always be the central hub but other satellite hubs around the region will be helpful in our goal of delivering integrated and mobile services.”

For more information about Tarawera Medical, or about the services currently provided by Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, visit

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