OPINION: Covid-19 has moved to New Zealand, but that doesnt mean you should have to live with it.
We need our local leaders mayors, iwi and hap leaders, and the district health boards (DHBs) to stand up.
The pandemic is now too complex to handle from Wellington alone, and clearly requires insider solutions to low vaccination rates in some communities. We need local voices discussing the restrictions vs Covid-elimination payoff.
Its time for the Government to give control back to iwi and local leaders.
Minister Peeni Henare is responsible for the Governments Mori Health portfolio.
READ MORE:* Covid-19: Auckland should keep regional boundary 'as long as possible' to protect country* Covid-19: Risk remains for Mori and Pasifika even if Auckland hits 90% first doses* Covid-19 outbreak situation report: What happened today, October 8
The decision about whether Covid-19 should be allowed into communities beyond Waikato should rest only with those in those communities. According to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, these are not decisions the prime minister should make.
However, on Friday, televisions and radios will be tuned to the Beehive when we hear the Governments latest plan for getting out of Covid restrictions.
Will that plan involve iwi?
Will that plan give back power to councils to manage emergencies related to Covid-19?
Will that plan require DHBs to step up and be publicly accountable for the vaccination efforts in their regions? Despite having democratically elected leaders, most DHBs have remained silent throughout the pandemic.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Murupara on Thursday and walked through the drive-through vaccination centre.
So far, the public discussion has been focused on Jacinda Arderns Christmas plans. But if youre able to see all your friends and family at Christmas, that wont be because we have miraculously eradicated Covid-19.
It will be because the Government has allowed Covid-19 to spread. In Auckland, there is a good understanding that Covid-19 has settled in. Level 3 here is viewed as a holding pattern, while our immunity builds.
Most Aucklanders have accepted this. The Government has, by not directing us onto a different path, also accepted it on Aucklands behalf.
But what about the rest of the country?
A one-size-fits-all approach to Covid-19 will not work weve seen that with the lower vaccination rate of Mori.
No doubt many towns and iwi will be looking to Auckland and thinking no way. Most of the country has avoided uncontrolled outbreaks of Covid-19 so far, and surely has every right to continue to do.
However, the Government continues to effectively micro-manage the pandemic from Wellington.
Glenn McConnell is a journalist and columnist at Stuff, from Te tiawa.
It has alluded to albeit in a fairly coy manner reopening for summer. That must surely concern community leaders from Hawkes Bay up to Tairwhiti, who call the countrys summer hotspots home, and often live in communities with far lower vaccination rates.
The Government removed councils ability to declare local states of emergency in relation to Covid-19, in an amendment to the Civil Defence Emergency Act last year. Previously, the Act could have allowed councils to impose their own restrictions to control outbreaks.
So, if the Government chooses to open the country up, there will be little local leaders can do to stop it.
The solutions for Auckland and Wellington, both with very high vaccination rates, will not work in the suburbs of Christchurch or Rotorua.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a drive-through vaccination centre.
Look to towns such as Murupara and Rotorua. They have incredibly low vaccination rates. If Covid-19 was let loose in those communities, it would be truly horrendous. In Murupara, less than 40 per cent of the town has received a dose of Pfizer.
From the podium and in interviews, Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been the stars of the pandemic response. Last week, Ardern travelled to Murupara and other towns with low vaccination rates to try and help those vaccinators on the ground.
But the prime minister cannot be in every town, holding the hands of every vaccine-hesitant citizen.
Weve reached the stage of the pandemic where local solutions are needed.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have become the faces of the pandemic response.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi ensures tino rangatiratanga for hap. The term carries a lot of meaning, but it describes a persons right to access the resources to ensure they can live their best life. In Te Tiriti, it asserts that the leaders of hap have the authority to set their own course.
The next step of the pandemic, where we need to reach everyone and adjust to the virus on our shores, is far more complex. Te Tiriti can help.
Weve seen the effect of a Wellington-led vaccination effort, which has resulted in inequitable vaccination that risks derailing our journey out of Covid-19 restrictions.
The relationship between Mori leaders in Whnau Ora agencies and Wellington has got so bad that John Tamihere is taking the Ministry of Health to court.
John Tamihere at a West Auckland vaccination centre.
He alleges the ministry refused to provide information that would have allowed his team to contact Mori yet to be vaccinated. Other Mori health providers have said they did not receive the resources to vaccinate everyone, and in Gisborne theyre literally fundraising on GiveALittle to get a mobile vaccination clinic.
These community leaders know their people better than the Ministry of Health does.
Its time we trusted them, and give them the power their tino rangatiratanga to keep their iwi, towns, hap and whnau safe.
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