Calls for the Govt to better integrate the Treaty into decision-making process

By Jessica Tyson

Social justice advocate Julia Whaipooti says the Government needs to better integrate the Treaty of Waitangi into their decision-making process.

Whaipooti believes rules created under COVID-19, especially those involving tangihanga, were not made with enough Māori input.

“Not just for COVID response but they need to do this for Level 2 moving forward now. There’s no use in telling us what’s going to happen for us. They need us at the table. They need to understand and ask the questions ‘How will this impact Māori, what are the values and tikanga that it affects’. They need Māori to be able to inform that.”

She says the expansion of police powers, especially in relation to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill received strong criticism from Māori. 

Māori oppose the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill - Video / Te Ao

Whaipooti is especially critical of the “white nature” of communications from the Government-led response to the Māori community, she says.

“I think it showed a complete disrespect and distrust of us as a people. I watched an amazing kōrero that Peeni Henare gave in the House of Parliament but who watches Parliament. We need that kind of communication.”

In his kōrero, Henare was talking about tangihanga.

Whaipooti says, “We needed that for ourselves and when we did haka up and we were forced to change their response from 10 to 50 people in tangihanga, two Pākehā men come out and speak with us to tell us that good news.”

Whaipooti says Māori shouldn’t have to “poke” so much for their voices to be heard.

“How can they explain tikanga for us. How can they explain why we’re not allowed to have kai at our tangihanga. How can they explain that to us when perhaps actually could have our tangi and have 50 of us on there and then we could book the restaurant down the road and book 10 groups of 10.”

Whaipooti hopes that Māori voices will be heard as the country recovers from the impact of COVID-19.