The Government has established a $120 million fund to accelerate Māori vaccination rates and support communities as part of the newly-announced Covid-19 traffic light system.
Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare announced in Wellington on Thursday morning the Māori Communities Covid-19 Fund will directly fund Māori, iwi and other community organisations to reach Māori not yet vaccinated.
Those targetted by the funding include rangatahi, whānau without permanent housing, whānau in rural and remote locations, and whānau not well connected to health services, Henare said.
“While more Māori have been vaccinated in recent weeks, Māori are still lagging behind most New Zealanders, particularly in the younger age groups,” Henare said.
“We need to pull out all the stops to ensure whānau are protected when the new protection framework is put in place.
"We know the recent lift in vaccination rates is the direct result of funding Māori providers and of Māori leadership efforts at a regional and national level. We need this to continue.
“From hāngi and vouchers, walk-in clinics and vax buses, partnerships with iwi, local communities and businesses, communities going door-to-door, vaccinations on sports fields and at kura and many more initiatives - we’ve seen what works and this fund will support more of it.”
The fund will be split into two phases with $60 million going towards accelerating Māori vaccination rates while the other $60 million will support Māori and iwi-led initiatives to protect their communities against Covid-19, Henare added.
Phase One will start next week and will work alongside existing vaccination roll-out efforts with a focus on areas where Māori vaccination rates are low. The Government has identified those as Counties Manukau, Lakes District, Taranaki and Tairawhiti, Northland and Bay of Plenty DHB areas currently.
Phase Two funding will be available in early November for initiatives such as support for testing and other public health measures under the new framework and aid for diagnosis and home-isolation.
Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson said Māori providers have "deep connections and networks" in their communities, allowing them to reach whānau that other government response efforts can't.
“Ministers have met regularly with Māori leaders. We are unanimous in our view that we need to inject further resources into local Māori-focused initiatives so we can support providers and communities to keep the vaccination momentum going – and we need to do that rapidly.
“It’s important we also support these communities to lead and implement measures to protect and prepare whānau as we move into the next phase of our response to Covid-19.
"We cannot afford not to invest in this,” Jackson said.