The Government has denied there is a pākehā lens in failing to provide travel exemptions for some of rugby player Sean Wainui’s whānau to travel out of Auckland for his tangihanga.
The 25-year-old Chiefs, Bay of Plenty and Māori All Blacks star died following a car crash in McLaren Falls, near Tauranga, on Monday. He left behind a wife and two young children.
"This has been one of the hardest things throughout Covid-19 … It is a truly difficult area for both those who give us advice about how exemptions are granted and the Government in terms of the rules that we set," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told reporters at the daily Covid-19 update on Thursday.
He said while there have been "people who tragically have missed out on attending tangi and funerals and it is very, very hard", there are difficulties around minimising risk during events "where people find it extremely difficult to socially or physically distance".
Robertson added that while the Ministry of Health have looked into ways to help facilitate people attending funeral and tangihanga under the current alert level and border restrictions, it is "challenged by the concept of tangihanga because tangihanga implicitly involves a wider group of people".
"We try to manage it sensitively but many, many people have unfortunately had to [miss out]."
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield added that the team "looks at every application on its merits", noting that health officials have "extended the criteria" to allow some extended family members to attend tangihanga and funerals.
Robertson denied that the Government was failing to take cultural factors into account.
"In the end, there will always be a limit to numbers and that is the issue that we are dealing with.
"My heart goes out to this whānau and to all of the others who have been through this. It is, without doubt, one of the most difficult areas of managing Covid-19.
"We try to do it sensitively, we try to do it safely and I’m sure the Ministry [of Health] and others would have been assessing any application that way."