DHB to destroy racist Covid-19 leaflet

By Will Trafford

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board says it will destroy a Covid-19 information leaflet branded racist and inappropriate.

The pamphlet labelled "Let's Give Covid-19 The Boot" features a depiction of Covid-19 with a Mataora being kicked by a farmer wearing red band gumboots.

Another depiction shows a clinician standing on the virus, puncturing its head with a taiaha.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer has taken to social media to voice her opinion on the imagery. 

"BoP DHB check yourselves. What the heck were you thinking that this type of imagery is ok? Our taonga is rongoā, your Comms is not!" Packer wrote in an Instagram post.

Rotorua-based Labour MP Tamati Coffey drew attention to the pamphlet in a Facebook post on Thursday. It has since been widely condemned, including by Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon.

"Depicting mataora and Māori as the Covid-19 virus is racism to the core. It is culturally ignorant and culturally insensitive," he said.

'Totally unacceptable'

The chairs of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Te Runanga Hauora Maori o te Moana a Toi have apologised to iwi and hapū partners, whānau, and Māori more broadly.

Board chair Sharon Shea said she found the depictions ‘wrong’ while the DHB’s chief executive, Peter Chandler, replied to Coffey’s post, saying he was “absolutely appalled by the imagery” and that it was “totally unacceptable”.

Runanga chair Linda Steel told NZME the imagery was produced by “a local Māori artist” but, while some iwi leaders had been consulted, the approval process for the literature was not appropriate.

According to Shea, Iwi from Mai i Ngā Kuri-a-Whārei ki Tihirau were "beyond offended" with how the most sacred part of the tinana (body) had been depicted.

Shea says she has asked the DHB's chief executive to conduct a full review into the leaflet.