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Better understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of Te Tai Tokerau, and the role communities played in the pandemic response, will be the focus of a visit to the region this week, says COVID-19 Inquiry Chair Professor Tony Blakely.

As part of the visit, the Inquiry will travel to Whangārei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia where the Commissioners will meet with Iwi, local business leaders and owners, Māori health and social service providers, local government staff and representatives of the education sector, among others.

“We know the impacts from the pandemic on Northland were significant and, like Auckland, the region had to endure longer lockdowns and public health measures than other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“We also know community leaders played a key role in ensuring that whānau were protected as much as possible from the impacts of the virus. We’re very interested in learning more about what was done and why as we focus on learning the lessons from COVID-19 and ensuring we are as prepared as possible for any future pandemic,” says Professor Blakely.

The Inquiry will also host some direct engagements with the community to capture their experiences of the pandemic, and encourage as many people as possible to share their COVID-19 story via the Inquiry’s dedicated online submission site – Public submissions are open until 24 March 2024.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of us, and New Zealanders – both here and living overseas – were asked to undertake extraordinary actions during this time. We want to hear about the wide range of experiences people had, and their observations of the pandemic, whatever they might be,” says Professor Blakely.

Professor Blakely says it is his hope that lessons can be drawn from across a range of areas where major decisions were taken during the pandemic.

“It’s also my hope, along with my fellow Commissioner John Whitehead, that in sharing their stories with the Royal Commission, people feel in some way they have had the opportunity to express the impact the pandemic had on them, their families and communities.”

The Inquiry has launched a public information campaign – ‘Look back to move forward’ – to ensure that the public are aware of their opportunity to share their experiences. As of today, the Inquiry has received around 2700 submissions.

“It’s really encouraging to see that so many people have taken the time to tell us about their experiences, and we look forward to receiving many more submissions ahead of the consultation closing on 24 March.”

Alongside sharing their experiences of COVID-19, the public also have the opportunity to provide feedback on what an expanded terms of reference for the Inquiry might include.

“The Government has said it is committed to expanding the Inquiry’s terms of reference and has asked us to undertake consultation, on its behalf, on a broader, clarified scope for the Inquiry.”

Feedback on the terms of the reference will be provided to the Department of Internal Affairs, who will then provide advice to the Government ahead of any changes that might be made to the scope of the Inquiry. As a result of this consultation, the Inquiry may be asked to look at additional aspects of the COVID-19 response.

Public submissions are in addition to the many direct engagements that the Inquiry has undertaken with individuals, organisations and communities since it began in February 2023. The Royal Commission has also been directed to review aa wide range of publicly available information as part of its terms of reference, says Professor Blakely.

Notes for editors:

Commissioners will be available for interviews throughout the week, by arrangement. While engagements are confidential, we can arrange for media to interview participants by request. We can arrange for, or provide, B-roll footage of engagements if required.

We have a spokesperson (other than Commissioners) who can conduct interviews in Te reo Māori if required.

Schedule of visits and engagements is as follows:

Tuesday 20 February – Whangārei


Health and social service providers

Local government forum

Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management group meeting

Wednesday 21 February – Kaikohe


Health and social service providers

Business forum

Education forum

Thursday 22 February – Kaitaia

Te Tai Tokerau Border Control

Iwi and Te Hiku Covid Response Group

Primary health services forum

Social services forum

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