Ngārewa-Packer warns Māori to prepare for outbreak and get vaccinated

By Jessica Tyson

The government's plan to gradually ease level 3 restrictions in Auckland, despite low vaccination rates and increasing Delta cases, has come under fire from the Māori Party.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer says the elimination strategy is of huge concern for Māori and Pasifka whānau, “by the fact that they opened the trans-Tasman bubble. They invited Delta with absolutely no consideration of the fact that we have huge housing issues, huge pohara issues.”

Ngārewa-Packer says Māori and Pasifka whanau need to prepare for an outbreak.

“That includes the immediacy of those sitting on the fence to get vaccinated and the necessity for those of us, within our regions of leadership to look at what a resistance to outbreak looks like.”

Vaccination rates among Māori are only about two-thirds of those of the general population. Ngārewa-Packer says Māori are behind because the initial vaccination programme was not designed for Māori.

“It was designed from a model that suits Pākehaā. What's failed is that they have not addressed us and included us at the very beginning. So we've always been behind."

She says the way the government has reacted to inequities “the whole way through has been poor”.

“We had experts from Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, Dr Rawiri Jensen, who was brought in to advise them. They ignored him. So these are decisions that have been made in spite of and despite advice from Māori and Pacifica experts.”

Ngārewa-Packer says while the government underestimated the timing necessary, it had recently brought on Whānau Ora providers to find innovative ways “to close the gaps”.

“But the reality is they've been pushed against time. So we're anywhere from four to six weeks behind the rest of Aotearoa.”