Covid-19 Pandemic Response Plan

Executive Summary

When the global Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 it became immediately clear that tangata whenua would be the most at-risk group, just as our tupuna were in previous epidemics, such as the influenza pandemic of 1918 in which the Māori death rate was nine times higher than the Pākehā death rate [1].

Government knew in February 2020 that a targeted Māori response plan and vaccination programme at the start of vaccination rollout were essential. The Government and Ministry of Health have consistently ignored the advice and recommendations of experts and tangata whenua.

The government and Ministry have failed Māori. As of 14 November, Māori are 40% of all Delta cases, 46% of all active cases, and 30% of hospitalisations. Ministry of Health vaccination data does not account for an undercount in Maori vaccination rates. Māori full vaccinations (56.5%) are 22.2% lower than the national average (78.5%). If the advice had been followed, the Māori health response would be in a completely different position.

Te Pāti Māori demand that the Government empower and resource a by Māori, for Māori response to lead the remaining Māori public health response and vaccination programme. This response will focus on vaccination, supporting Māori home isolation and whānau wellbeing, including physical, mental and spiritual health.

We will uphold informed consent and choices available to whānau, hapū and iwi and not undermine the health response by unilaterally imposing government mandates. Instead, we will empower them to set their own tikanga. We will leave nobody behind.

Te Pāti Māori will:

  • Empower and resource Māori to lead our own Covid-19 response
  • Establish an independent statutory Māori Pandemic Response Group
  • Abolish Government mandates
  • Affirm autonomy to set tikanga for tangihanga
  • Invest in holistic wellbeing
  • Implement a Māori home isolation strategy
  • Support whānau who are struggling and have been impacted by Covid-19
  • Keep our international borders closed until Māori vaccination rates hit 95%



Empower and resource Māori to lead our own Covid-19 response

The Government has been completely unwilling to meet their obligations as a Te Tiriti partner and share power and resources with tangata whenua. They have abused their power and breached Te Tiriti by ignoring Māori health advice, putting our people at risk, while targeting Marae and Māori rights in pandemic-related legislation and regulation [2].

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Speed up the establishment of the Māori Health Authority
  • Transfer all Māori targeted DHB vaccination programme funding to Māori health and iwi providers
  • Share all vaccination data with Māori health and iwi providers and vaccination teams
  • Ensure ethnicity data across all areas of Covid-19 (including travel exemptions and MIQ applications) are being collected
  • Ensure modelling and data analysis includes Māori population and takes Māori characteristics and Māori realities into account
  • Amend the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 [3] to:
    • Remove the power to enter Marae and private property without warrants
    • Require all decisions made by the Minister of Health and Director-General of Health to be signed off by the Minister of Māori Development


Establish independent statutory Māori Pandemic Response Group

The contribution of Māori health experts and providers in managing Covid-19 in Aotearoa has been exemplary. But all the advice they have offered to protect Māori has been ignored and as such Māori are now the lowest vaccinated community with the highest risk of death by Covid-19. Many public health experts have been struggling to have their advice accepted by the Government, however this has been the case from the outset for our Māori public health experts. Our leaders and experts need statutory powers that require government to seriously consider their advice.

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Establish independent Māori Pandemic Response Group (MPRG) with statutory powers to develop and lead the Māori Covid-19 health response and advise cabinet
  • MPRG will be comprised of representatives appointed by the Māori Health Authority, Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the Whānau Ora Collective and the Iwi Pandemic Response Group
  • MPRG will be responsible for the development of the Māori Covid-19 response strategy and will be resourced to carry out their role and responsibility
  • MPRG will be directly responsible to the Minister of Health and the Minister for Māori Development
  • Implement all advice of MPRG in consultation with iwi, Māori health and social service providers


Abolish government mandates and support community-led tikanga

Te Pāti Māori are opposed to government vaccine mandates, except for frontline hospital and medical clinic workers (for whom it is already current practice). The Government do not have the constitutional right to impose mandates on tangata whenua, as our tino rangatiratanga to make these decisions for ourselves is enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Experts have warned that government unilaterally imposing vaccine mandates risks dividing Aotearoa and undermining the public health response [4].

However, mandates are an important tool that whānau, hapū, iwi, businesses and communities should be empowered to use where and when they determine a need. We support them setting their own tikanga.

Everyone has the right to the best possible protection against Covid-19 and the right to fully participate in society (including those who choose not to vaccinate, but also the immunocompromised). Participation in society is not just a right but a fundamental pillar of Māori health.

Upholding Te Tiriti rights and maintaining kotahitanga are essential in ensuring ongoing social cohesion, and a successful health response.

Informed consent must be a guiding principle so that people can make the best possible decisions to protect their whānau from the virus and freely participate in society.

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Abolish Government Covid-19 mandates
  • Require hospital and medical clinic workers to be vaccinated
  • Require all frontline health workers not in hospital and medical clinics to declare their vaccination status to patients and provide a negative test to patients upon request
  • Require all other unvaccinated frontline government workers to provide a negative Covid-19 test every 2 days to their employer at their own cost (including the education sector)
  • Support mandates put in place by tangata whenua, organisations and businesses
  • Uphold the right of whānau, hapū and iwi to set their own vaccine rules
  • Require organisations, businesses and event organisers to set their own vaccine rules
  • Strongly oppose any moves to impose sanctions or penalties on workers or beneficiaries who are unvaccinated
  • Require all businesses, organisations and schools to publicise their vaccine rules on the vaccine passport application and across a range of other platforms


Affirm autonomy to set tikanga for tangihanga

No Government has the right to determine tikanga for tangihanga. Over the pandemic, Māori have had to sacrifice one of the most important cultural practices in Te Ao Māori, the tangihanga. Our sacrifice has been met with a travel exemption application process that is inconsistent, culturally insensitive and flawed.

Border exemptions have regularly been given for non-essential purposes such as sporting events, film productions and corporate travel. Privileged rule breakers have received little or no consequence, while a Māori woman was imprisoned for travelling to a tangihanga [5].

Government must return the power to whānau, hapū and iwi Māori to determine their own tikanga for tangihanga.

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Support whānau, hapū and iwi to determine all the tikanga for tangihanga, in consultation with tikanga experts and authorities
  • Ensure that tangihanga are considered an essential service
  • Ensure Māori determine the criteria for tangihanga travel exemption applications
  • Approve travel for all tangihanga where safety measures and adequate documentation has been provided
  • Provide domestic MIQ spots for inter-regional travel for tangihanga while regions are at heightened alert levels


Invest in holistic wellbeing

As well as vaccinations, we must invest in holistic wellbeing as laid out in Tā Mason Durie’s Māori health models, Te Whare Tapa Whā and Te Pae Mahutonga. This means ensuring that we are providing for Mauriora, Waiora, Toiora and Te Oranga with access to healthy kai, rongoa, exercise, preventative health, and community connection and participation.

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Provide incentives for whānau, hapū, iwi and communities to grow their own kai
  • Establish $50m fund to support rongoa-practitioners to grow their capacity
  • Invest $100m into innovative community, Māori and iwi-led initiatives with a specific focus on oranga hinengaro (mental wellbeing).


Implement a Māori Home Isolation Strategy

Currently over 2,100 cases and 2,600 whānau, a considerable number of which are Māori, are isolating at home without adequate government planning, resources, and support. Three people have already died while in home isolation [6].

We would work with the Māori Pandemic Response Group to develop and implement a comprehensive Māori Home Isolation Strategy. Our top priority is early detection and early treatment as the best way of keeping people safe.

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Develop and implement a Māori Home Isolation Strategy
  • Provide every whānau with a homecare kit including sanitation items, rapid antigen tests, Paracetamol, decongestants masks, and emergency contacts
  • Fund hapū and iwi to run saliva testing operations
  • Subsidise rapid antigen home testing kits and make these available in all pharmacies
  • Resource hapū and iwi to establish Special Isolation and Quarantine Facilities (SIQs) to help manage home isolation
  • Significantly boost funding into iwi and Māori social service providers to provide wraparound care for whānau in isolation


Support whānau who are struggling

The pandemic has amplified the entrenched poverty, inequities and racism that has impacted Māori, Pasifika and the working class in Aotearoa. The virus arrived in a country that was already dealing with crises of housing, inequality and healthcare.

Poverty and inequities are destructive for everyone and undermines the collective. What is good for those who are struggling is good for everyone. What is good for Māori is good for Aotearoa.

We will significantly lift incomes through raising benefits and wages as outlined in our Income Policy and we will take on the housing crisis through taxes on capital gains and empty houses and through a massive state house and papakaingā build programme.

In addition to these policies, Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Deposit $100 into the bank accounts of each individual living in lockdown each week beyond two weeks
  • Make the Winter Energy Payment permanent
  • Pay the wage subsidy directly to workers and increase separate business subsidies
  • Increase funding for homelessness support programmes including Housing First
  • Introduce a temporary rent freeze and ban on evictions
  • Regulate supermarkets to prevent unreasonable price hikes during the pandemic
  • Introduce a moratorium on prosecuting people for drug possession and use until the pandemic threat has diminished, to reduce barriers to engaging with services


Keep our international borders closed until Māori vaccination rates hit 95%

Strong international and domestic border controls are a critical part of Aotearoa’s response to Covid-19. Now is not the time to remove controls, particularly at the national border, as that would risk undermining the entire response and expose Māori to higher risk.

We need to make the MIQ system fairer and safer for both participants and the community, and build the capacity to enable more people, particularly tangata whenua, to come home.

Regions and rural communities must also be protected through following the leadership of mana whenua, whose efforts have limited inter-regional travel across multiple outbreaks [7].

Te Pāti Māori will;

  • Keep our international borders closed until Māori vaccination rates hit 95%
  • Significantly expand MIQ facilities and build a dedicated MIQ facility in an isolated area away from population centres
  • Introduce a new MIQ booking system and significantly increase placements available, while prioritising tangata whenua, those travelling for emergencies, essential workers, and those wishing to permanently move home
  • Require Police and other emergency services to establish checkpoints and roadblocks in all areas requested by mana whenua