Waitangi Tribunal grants inquiry into Govt's handling of pandemic

The Waitangi Tribunal has granted a special inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic with multiple expert witnesses ready to give evidence including Associate Professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Dr Rawiri Jansen.

The national Māori flag flies during Waitangi Day.

The inquiry will take place over a week from December 6 and will investigate whether the Government’s vaccination strategy and Covid-19 Protection Framework is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The claim has been made by Archdeacon Harvey Ruru, George Ngātai, Anne Kendall and Sir Edward Taihākurei Durie as co-chairs, deputy chair and pou respectively of the New Zealand Māori Council.

In their application to the tribunal, they claim Māori have been significantly prejudiced by the vaccine rollout, and will be in the impending traffic light system.

Read more: Māori leaders want urgent inquiry into Govt’s pandemic response

“The circumstances of the Māori and tauiwi populations are not the same," the claim states.

"The critical areas of concern are the lag in vaccination of Māori generally, doubts about the reliability of Māori population assessments meaning that the true vaccination rate amongst Māori may be lower still and the younger spread of the Māori population, the greater number of Māori who live in crowded homes or are homeless [and] the lower income levels and the greater extent of poverty.

“The above factors make the spread of the virus more likely amongst Māori, and with more serious consequences. It is noted that Māori are already falling ill, and being hospitalised, from Covid in far greater numbers than would be consistent with the Māori proportion of the total population.”

The New Zealand Māori Council has indicated the scope of the inquiry will cover issues of data sovereignty, the distribution of the $120 million fund to support Māori vaccination efforts, priority vaccination of under-12s, the specific quarantine needs of Māori and Māori access to vaccinations.

It wants the Government to establish a target of vaccinating at least 90 per cent of the eligible Māori population of the area, where all Māori five years and older are eligible, before implementing the new traffic light system.

Nationwide, 80 per cent of Māori have had a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 65 per cent are fully vaccinated.