Iwi-led testing stations in Te Tai Tokerau to continue after proposed end date by Govt

By Jessica Tyson

It has been decided for community-based COVID-19 testing stations to close at the end of June but Ngāpuhi iwi leaders say that might not be the right time.

Yesterday Director-General for Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed that in light of recent numbers, District Health Boards will reduce the number of community-based assessment centres.

Te Rūnanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi operates a community testing centre in Te Tai Tokerau and Interim CEO Te Ropu Poa says the end date for testing “has to be thought out a little bit more given the recent global alerts around the second wave.”

In Te Tai Tokerau there have been 28 cases of COVID-19, and eight of them were Māori, says Poa.

“So although we’ve had 28 cases in Te Tai Tokerau and the 28 have recovered, there’s certainly a reason for why that has happened and why we have been successful and that alternatively is the lockdown.”

Importance of iwi-led testing stations

COVID-19 Response Project Lead for Ngāpuhi Tia Ashby says iwi led stations are very important for Māori whānau.

“What we’ve learned is having an iwi led response is really effective in engaging the community so I think that elements of the CBACs should remain and we’ve actually planned for that."

She says that irrespective of what direction comes from the ministry, the rūnanga will continue their iwi led model and continue testing, to allow kaimahi to meet and welcome whānau from the community.

Ashby hopes to receive continued support by the ministry when they continue testing after the end of June.

“We’re always told everything needs to be evidence-based. You need the capacity to meet the demands and I guess it is a political issue that we’ve faced for decades, she says.

“We’ve shown them that this model works and we’re just going to have the community and rohe behind us to ensure it can stay and remain.”

Te Kahu o Taonui

Poa says the iwi has transitioned into the recovery of COVID-19 using their  Te Kahu o Taonui programme, which is a representation of the 10 iwi across Te Tai Tokerau.

“We’re centralising as an iwi collective and iwi-led model of care that’s governed by Te Kaha o Taonui. The service will still include testing and vaccinations. We’re going to continue and increase looking at the social services, housing, food all the essential winter items because that’s what we’re moving into.”

They’re also using the Kai Manaaki programme to support wh1anau.

“That’s going to enable us to exert our rangatiratanga which we anticipate job creation and building our Māori hauroa workforce.”

They have already partnered with several DHBs to deliver the programmes in Te Tai Tokerau.

“There needs to be more of an interaction from national office, the Ministry of Health, connected to our iwi and have those discussions."

She says that over the past seven weeks Māori may not have been heard "and we have to be heard".