Māori oppose the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill

By Tema Hemi

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill was only introduced to the House yesterday and has already reached its third reading. There's been strong criticism from Māori about the sweeping powers it gives police. Even the Opposition is opposing it.

Tensions build among Māori over the Government's Public Health Response Bill. 

President of the Māori Party Che Wilson says, "Things like kawa and tikanga pertain to the living but the Government is adamant that they are the only ones with the knowledge of life."

National MP Alfred Ngaro says he's appalled at the way the Government rushed the Bill through the house. 

Ngaro says, "They were asked for advice. They gave them an explicit plan and described the things they would change in tikanga and kawa for instance. They had accommodated for those things."

New Zealand First deputy leader Shane Jones supports the Bill and says that Māori are caught on both sides of the spectrum. 

Jones says, "The thing that does bother me is once we have a tangi event in an isolated place like north of Kaitāia, people will have travelled a long way. Majority of the tribe probably live in Auckland and policing such a small group of people I'd be very worried that our Māori policemen are placed in an impossible situation. 

The Bill's Enforcement Act will give Police the authority to enter private dwellings without a warrant. Ngaro says this is a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

"Māori have come to the table, they've put forward their concerns but also they have proactively put in the things that are positive to change the Bill, and they've not been considered at all. The first statement of concern that was raised is that nowhere in the Bill is there are references to Te Tiriti o Waitangi," he says.

Through a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) the Government this morning made amendments and took the word 'marae' out of the Bill. 

Wilson concludes, "Before the inclusion of marae in the Bill meant that the Bill applied to everyone. But from the time that a term that pertains to Māoridom was used it was prejudice."