Whānau Ora chair: We can't rely on Govt for Covid solutions

Source: 1News

The chair of Whānau Ora says communities can "never ever" rely on the Government to respond to Covid-19 because "they just haven't got the capability".

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait told Breakfast that Whānau Ora showed community-led solutions could be far more effective.

"Government departments are never accountable to communities, but we are because we know our communities and we want the best for them… we know what is a stake when we are not successful, and that drives us on."

A new Whānau Ora report reflecting on the Covid-19 response between March 2020 and June 2021 found its commissioning agency and networks "have been highly effective in responding to the needs of Māori communities" during the pandemic.

This included the establishment of 14 centres throughout the North Island that were able to distribute 240,000 Whānau Ora packs to 138,000 whānau.

The report said that, for the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency to be more effective, it needed increased funding to attract staff and build its infrastructure.

Data also needed to be better shared between the Government and its partners like Whānau Ora, it said.

The report noted that "Government-led initiatives have historically failed to protect Māori" and that modelling was clear about the unequal burden of hospitalisations and deaths Māori and Pasifika populations would experience because of the pandemic.

"Early indications of the potential associated risks and the severity of Covid-19 necessitated a coordinated response.

"Waipareira [Trust] anticipated that a targeted response was needed for Māori, particularly given the Government’s lack of expertise in understanding the strength of Māori social structures, communities and networks."

Raukawa-Tait said Māori just "couldn't wait" for the Government to get its act together to respond to the threats Māori faced because of Covid-19.

That was why Whānau Ora just needed to get on with it and use its existing relationships with families, she said.

"The responses from the Government were very much tailored towards middle New Zealand. We had families who were already struggling - they had no disposable income."

She said the Government needed to shift its thinking to put community-led solutions first, rather than last.

"It is community leadership, it is the solution that is developed in the community that will always be there to give the community the helping hand they need.

"We can never ever, I believe in the future, rely on the Government. They just haven't got the capability of doing it and I might say also they've put up too many challenges that we don't need in a time of crisis."

The Government provided targeting funding towards Māori to respond to the pandemic, including a $5 million Whānau Recovery Fund for Delta-hit communities, a $120 million fund to accelerate Māori vaccination rates, and $140 million to tackle Omicron.

In December last year, the Waitangi Tribunal found the Crown’s response to Covid-19 was actively breaching the Treaty because "Māori were put at a disproportionate risk of being infected by Delta" than other groups.

Following its findings, the Tribunal recommended the Crown urgently provide further funding, resourcing, data, and other support to assist Māori providers and communities.

The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency and the Ministry of Health ended up in court last year over access to Māori vaccination data.

After two High Court judicial reviews, the ministry agreed to release data about unvaccinated Māori in the North Island to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency under strict conditions to protect privacy.