Settle up - Are treaty deals benefiting all Maori?

Iwi are increasingly using the proceeds from Treaty of Waitangi settlements to fix longstanding problems facing their people. Richer tribes are investing more in social housing, savings schemes and health insurance.

But many iwi have received small settlements and struggle to find a balance between investing the returns for the future generations and paying dividends to meet the needs of the current generation.

Te Morehu Maurice Watene is adamant the health system has gone downhill "I've personally experienced it with my parents, siblings and in-laws. It's pathetic," he said.

"Like we would walk them in [to hospital] because it was the doctor's recommendation, and damn, they've gotten worse. Then we're left to carry them out in a box."

The Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei kaumatua, who is 68, thinks the health system has failed Māori.

Māori die sooner, and tend to be sicker than their Pākehā counterparts.

They are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure or to suffer stroke, diabetes or respiratory illnesses.

Māori are also over represented in statistics surrounding obesity and smoking. They are also less likely to visit a doctor or dentist.

Auckland-based Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has taken matters into its own hands.

"We're not going to wait for the government to come up with a magic solution for us, " Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust representative Ngarimu Blair said.

Alongside Australian-based insurer Nib, the iwi is offering free health insurance for its registered members, covering some 4,000 people around the country. 

It will provide base cover for surgical and medical hospitalisation - a specialist option which covers specialist consultations and diagnostic procedures that don't require hospitalisation and an everyday option to assist with some day-to-day health costs like GP visits, dental, physiotherapy and optical costs.

"We tend to suffer in silence, and now we don't have to," Whetumarama Porter, 68, said.

"I used to pay a lot of money for major surgery only [insurance], and now I don't have to. And the new insurance covers stuff that I need, and I now can get."

A roadshow around the country to promote the scheme saw a strong turnout, Mr Blair said, and about 300 whanau have signed up since the initiative was launched earlier this month.

The deal will cost Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei about $3 million a year if everyone joins. Mr Blair hopes to eventually roll the scheme out to iwi members in Australia.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is increasingly using some of the proceeds of its $1.1 billion Auckland property portfolio to address some of its tribes social needs.

It built 30 medium density homes under a communal housing scheme, which included underwriting mortgages to help whanau get a foot on the property ladder.

"Housing is a huge issue for us. There's a lot of demand from our people and rightly so given the rental market is pretty crazy," Mr Blair said.

"We want to do more and we're planning to do more."