Prime Minister's Delta year: 'Terrible'

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

2021 was the year of Delta, so it's no surprise that when political reporter Rukuwai Tipene-Allen had a sit-down with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and asked her to describe the year in one word, the answer was: "Terrible."

"iI's been a hard year for everyone," Ardern said.

And terrible is probably the right way to explain the year. There are 6811 active Covid-19 cases in the country, 713 people are currently self-isolating and 35 are in hospital.

But while the government and the director-general of health maintain that the rollout of the vaccine and the Covid-19 framework doesn't breach treaty obligations, Māori health leader Dr Rawiri Jansen told a Waitangi Tribunal special hearing last week, "It is not equity if we get vaccinated last. It is not partnership when the Crown ignores advice."

While the Waitangi Tribunal heard the claims calling the government's response prejudice, Ardern maintains the response was considerate of the needs of Māori. 

The Waitangi Tribunal special hearing maintained the Covid-19 framework significantly and irreversibly prejudices Māori, and that this breaches the Treaty of Waitangi's requirement to provide reasonable protection to Māori. But Ardern rejected the claims saying "I disagree. In fact, one of the reasons we designed that framework was to not rely solely on vaccines."

But she also said that she expected "Māori to hold us to account."

Meanwhile, the government has met its child poverty targets and improved by one or two percentage points on last year's reports although 20 percent of Maori children face material hardship.

Child poverty reduction has been one of the Prime Minister's passions since she started her career in the job. She said New Zealand "shouldn't have any child poverty. We're a relatively wealthy country."