Māori should have been involved in the Government's Covid-19 response from the beginning, to front foot the spread of misinformation and protect whānau across the country, says one Māori health leader.
Lady Tureiti Moxon, managing director of Te Kōhao Health, on Monday gave evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic.
The inquiry is investigating whether the Government’s vaccination strategy and Covid-19 Protection Framework is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Māori make up 45 per cent of all Covid cases in the current outbreak, and have some of the lowest vaccination rates in New Zealand. At present, only 72 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Moxon told Breakfast the Government should have sat down with Māori leaders from the start of the pandemic.
“Had we done that at the beginning then we would have been able to put in place the right kind of messaging for our people that may have offset all of the misinformation that's going around right now.”
She said the lack of Māori involvement has resulted in a “group of people who are adamant that the Government is trying to do something negative to all of us”.
“So we’re having to push our way through all that stuff and get to our people and get them vaccinated.”
The Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry began on Monday and is set down for the rest of the week. The claim was 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 claimed Māori had been significantly prejudiced by the vaccine rollout, and will be under the traffic light system.
And, with the traffic light system now in place across the country and Auckland’s border reopening on December 15, Moxon is also concerned.
“Once the borders open up we are going to be exposed to a whole lot of people that have Covid.
“The main thing we have to be saying to whanau, and whānau have to be aware of, is that they need to keep themselves safe over the holiday period.”
As to the result of the inquiry, Moxon is hopeful for a change moving forward. It's an "easy fix", she said, if the crown is willing to work with Māori.
“We’re all tired. We've been battling Covid these last two years. Now what we want is to be getting in there and working together.
“It's also about power sharing and sharing of resources so we can be empowered to do this for ourselves, and do the work that we know we're good at. And that is working with our own people, looking after our own people and making decisions for ourselves."
The Crown will have the chance to give its response and evidence to the inquiry on Thursday.
On Thursday the first dose Covid-19 Māori vaccination rate reached 80 per cent.
“These milestones reflect the hard work Māori health providers and our Māori community leaders have put in to reach Māori across the motu to support the vaccination drive, by door-knocking, going to workplaces and places of worship to vaccinate," Associate Minister of Health Māori Peeni Henare said.
“However, we still have work to do to reach those who are yet to receive their first dose and we continue to encourage those who have had a first dose to ensure they return for their second dose so they are fully vaccinated.”