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Under-served Communities To Face Backlash Because Of Government’s Elimination Strategy Flip Flop

Māori lives matter.

That should be front and centre of the government’s push to vaccinate at least 90% of the population.

With Māori vaccination rates the lowest of any nationality in Aotearoa, the elimination strategy that has acted as a korowai for Māori and under-served communities, has been dropped.

That will no doubt, according the Māori advocates, researchers and academics, result in loss of lives with Māori being a major casualty.

Hāpai Te Hauora, a Māori Public Health organisation tripartite owned and governed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, and Raukura Hauora O Tainui, and west Auckland urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira, wants the government to reverse its strategy back to elimination from suppression.

Along with other Māori providers, Hāpai also made submissions to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) which highlighted serious areas of deprivation within Māori and Pasifika communities.

Hāpai Te Hauora Chief Executive Officer, Selah Hart states: "It serves as a reminder, that we must recognise the high levels of state mistrust for Māori communities, borne of the persistent processes of colonisation which disenfranchised whānau from their lands, culture, language and economic base. It also begs us to recall the calls of key advocacy voices such as Te Roopu Whakakaupapa Urutā and others who have dedicated their lives to Public Health and the oranga of ngā iwi Māori"

Hāpai Director John Tamihere, who is in high court proceedings with the Ministry of Health over the Māori data said Māori organisations must be given the opportunity to look after Māori.

"It is extremely frustrating that we have to take the director general of health to court to access data that should be given and that we could quickly use to locate and vaccinate our people," Tamihere said. "Especially when the ministry hand that same data to third parties without our consent,

"If Māori lives are lost because of this denial, we will take civil action in manslaughter,"

Ms. Hart reiterates a statement from the collective’s submission to the government.

"We as an organisation strongly urge that Aotearoa re-adopt its position of elimination of COVID-19 and that all amendments to the COVID-19 Public Health Act Response Bill (No 2) be reconsidered in light of the intention to eliminate COVID-19 from all parts of Aotearoa. It is sub-standard in every aspect of the powers and responsibilities of the legislature, that the halt, and pivot away from eliminating COVID-19, was simultaneous with COVID-19 being endemic in Māori and Pasifika communities."

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua health arm, Te Hā Oranga, has mobilised their team in order to ensure the right response, in the right way, is executed for the communities they are charged with serving. "Te Hā Oranga had to mobilise their vaccination team in June, prior to Government and DHB recognition that static vaccination delivery would not serve Māori in remote rural locations, General Manager Boyd Broughton says, "Aotearoa cannot let good Māori public health decisions be governed by ‘social licence’ over public health data and evidence. The decision to shift from an elimination strategy to a strategy of suppression, when Māori vaccination rates are lower, and Māori case numbers are rising, paints Māori as an accepted collateral damage. Te Hā Oranga find that unacceptable."

There is urgency that the government consider how the COVID-19 response can give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and to recognise Māori as Te Tiriti partners with equal decision-makers in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic response as well as further acknowledging the efforts of marae, hapū and iwi in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 2 years and in responding to the most recent Delta strain outbreak.

Māori and other indigenous nations have the knowledge and expertise to allow them to efficiently lead responses to pandemics and to protect indigenous people and others from the adverse effects of pandemics. We believe that efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic must be done in accordance with mātauranga Māori which has proven that what works for Māori works for all.

Raukura Hauora o Tainui CEO, Terina Moke, is well aware of the history Waikato - Tainui has in leading healthcare advocacy over the last century for its people, Marae and communities. This carries right up to this very day, under the umbrella of Koiora, which is Waikato - Tainui’s hauora strategy. It has enabled Waikato - Tainui iwi affiliated Hauora Māori providers to coordinate and lead many initiatives in response to the Delta outbreak across the tribal boundaries of Waikato-Tainui. "Raukura Hauora o Tainui, like all Hauora Māori providers has not been passive or waited for permission from the Crown to respond to COVID-19 over the last 18 months. We know what is needed, we have been vocal about it and we have just got on with it. More importantly, we know what we have done works because it has made a difference".

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