Government’s $5m Covid relief package for Māori communities is too little, too late

The Government’s announcement of $5 million to provide immediate relief to Delta-hit Māori communities is another mistimed misstep and missed opportunity, National’s Whānau Ora  and Māori Development spokesperson Harete Hipango says.

“Again, this Government is not only late off the mark, it’s missed the mark altogether. It’s indecision on vaccination means New Zealand’s vulnerable communities are left even more exposed.

“The Government’s failure to plan ahead for Māori communities following the first lockdown in March 2020 positioned our most vulnerable to have the lowest and slowest vaccine rollout and uptake in New Zealand during the current outbreak.

“Responsible government requires responsible leadership, strategy, planning, resourcing and implementation – not hesitancy or as a matter of last resort. Since the first lockdown, the Government and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare have had the whistle blown on them for dropping the Covid ball too many times and here’s another knock-on with the low, slow vaccine engagement and shots.

“Before too long, booster shots will be due. The Government’s not prepared for this, either.

“This $5m ‘sop’ is another example of the Government trying to make up for its decompensation and reduction in funding of its Whānau Ora allocation.

“Contrary to advice given by Te Puni Kōkiri officials in March this year to seek more pūtea/funding, Minister Henare was comfortable with a $29.2m reduction.

“In another classic delayed reaction, the Minister made an announcement last week of a $23m funding boost to make up for this reduction and to temper tardy, mistimed and missed steps.

“Minister Henare is treating his responsibilities for Whānau Ora, as well as his responsibilities as the Associate Minister for Health and Minister for Defence, too flippantly.

“On Sunday, when questioned by Q&A about New Zealand’s Covid response and our Afghanistan evacuation in comparison to Australia’s work, Minister Henare replied, ‘Oh, Go the All Blacks!’

“The lives and well-being of New Zealanders deserve to be treated far more seriously.

“Meanwhile, Minister of Māori Development Willie Jackson and Te Puni Kōkiri have had 14 months from the first lockdown in March last year to initiate, plan and implement a communication strategy to engage Māori communities in the Covid response and the vaccine rollout.

“Finally, in May this year, the ‘Karawhiua, Be a Doer’ campaign was launched and, only last week, its Māori communications portal.

“The strategy focuses more on digital engagement, ignoring the fact that the most remote and vulnerable demographic of poor, isolated and vulnerable people and communities are, in the main, Māori.”