Waitangi Tribunal hearing told state’s Covid response 'disappointing'

By Whatitiri Te Wake

The New Zealand Māori Council today slammed the government's Covid-19 response, particularly the vaccination rollout, as it gave evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal.

For months, Māori leaders have expressed disappointment in the government’s Covid 19 response. They are dismayed by a failed vaccination rollout for Māori, and Māori being left behind in the traffic light system

In his opening remarks, Māori Council lawyer Felix Geiringer signalled that the rollout was inequitable, and not aligned with Te Tiriti o Waitangi

He argued it could not ever be consistent with Te Tiriti for the Crown to adopt policies that were considered to provide citizens as a whole with a reasonable level of protection but left Maori exposed to much worse outcomes.

Last month the High Court ruled the Ministry of Health should reconsider its decision not to release detailed data to the Whānau Ora commissioning agency so it could take a more targeted vaccination approach.

Now, although some information has been released, the claimants say this isn't good enough.

And, although 71% of Māori were now fully vaccinated, Peter Fraser of the NZ Māori Council said the rollout had been flawed from the start. He also noted the stark inequities faced by whanau especially with home isolation

“The community isolation at home, that might work very well in Karori, but we have a lot of whanau in places like Karioi and that's a completely different demographic and they don't  have guest rooms.”

Te Ao MāoriNews understands Health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be giving evidence this week, and, although the tribunal would have liked Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to front, that is yet to be decided.