Māori leaders and funeral home directors want more details on the exclusion of unvaccinated people from tangihanga, under the Government’s new traffic light system.
The haunting scenes of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed thousands of Māori, is etched in the mind of Ngāti Hine kaumātua Waihoroi Shortland’s mother.
“She remembers bodies just being hauled onto carts and being carried from where they fell or where they died, up to the cemetery and just put into the hole,” he said.
Shortland says his mother’s memories are why he is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - a requirement of the Government's pending new system which comes into effect once all of the country’s 20 DHBs reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated.
Under the new rules, marae which do use vaccination certificates will be able to open their doors to all mourners. At the red light setting, however, limitations will be in place.
Marae which do not use vaccination certificates could see mourners turned away.
However, funeral directors and Māori leaders are concerned about how to enforce the rules once they come into effect.
“If we say to our whānau, 'No, you can't bring your tupapaku in here, you can't come here for your tangihanga’, the issues of abandonment, the issues of being rejected,” Reverend Diana Tana said.
One funeral director asked if they would be forced to stand at the door and ask people for their vaccination status.
“I'd be interested to know who's paying the danger money for that," Heaven Falls Funeral Home's Michelle Pukepuke said.
“Telling people they can’t go in and have a three-course meal unless they’re vaccinated is a lot different to telling someone they can't come in and farewell their loved one.”
Others are concerned that grieving families will take on too much responsibility.
“They can't be running around making sure that protocols are being kept - that's a marae responsibility,” Shortland said.
Reverend Tana says she will conduct tangihanga regardless of a person’s vaccination status.
“For me personally, I would go so long as I am vaccinated,” she said.
“They're not been able to say a proper farewell and to mihi to their loved ones.”
The Government says further details on the new system will be available by November.