Māori left in the dark on Omicron strategy

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Māori have again been left out of consultation as plans for three phases to stamp out Omicron are unveiled.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is trying to defend the work, even descending to argue Māori interest is in "the way we care for people".

But Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer says the government should know better by now.

Test, vaccinate, isolate – that’s all part of the government’s stamp-it-out plan.

The prime minister says that it’s mostly based on clinical data and evidence - but the plan was created without Māori consultation.

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall struggled yesterday to tell reporters what input Māori had in the plan.

‘Should know better’

The prime minister today said consultation with Māori would be around “how we care for people”.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Te Ao Mārama the government keeps making the same mistakes.

She said the prime minister should know better, particularly after the Covid-19 response was found to have breached the Treaty of Waitangi.

Ngarewa-Packer is calling for urgent changes to funding, resourcing and data for Māori service providers.

Māori health providers have been testing, vaccinating and helping those isolating, Ngarewa-Packer says. Looking after communities has been a constant priority for Māori, she says, and expressed disappointment at yet another government misstep.

Now with a new plan providers and iwi are again on the back foot.

‘It always happens’

Ngā Ruanui chief executive Rachael Ray told Te Ao: “I'm not surprised. It seems to be an ongoing feature - it always happens to us.”

Te Ao Mārama understands meetings have been held with various iwi leaders and health providers today, many expressing their disappointment in being told about the plan after it was announced to the public.

The effects of the after-the fact-approach will be seen in coming days.

Whether the lack of consultations aligns with Treaty of Waitangi obligations will without a doubt be debated.