Māori party warns reopening New Zealand amid Covid outbreak would be ‘modern genocide’

Party say Maori would be ‘sacrificial lambs’ if Covid restrictions are lifted before vaccination rates rise

New Zealand’s government would be committing “modern genocide” by reopening the country as Covid spreads among under-vaccinated indigenous people, the Māori party has said.

The comments come as the country is struggling to contain its current Delta outbreak, with 95 cases reported over the weekend, and another 35 on Monday. Most current cases and hospitalisations are among Māori and Pacific New Zealanders, despite the fact those groups make up less than 30% of the total population. New Zealand is also in the process of pivoting away from its longstanding elimination strategy.

“Māori are now presenting over half of daily cases. We need to be placed back into a level that will break the circuit of this outbreak for Māori,” co-leader of the Māori party Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said on Monday.

“If the government is prepared to open the borders as soon as our country is 90% vaccinated, they are willingly holding Māori up to be the sacrificial lambs. It is a modern form genocide.”

Modelling by research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini found Māori were 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19 than non-Māori, after controlling for age and pre-existing conditions. Pacific people were three times more likely to end up in hospital with Covid.

On top of that, Māori are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, like diabetes and asthma, that put them at greater risk if they contract Covid-19. The government has also come under fire for failing to adequately engage Māori leaders and health providers in the vaccine rollout.

“At every stage of this pandemic, the government has ignored the advice of our Māori experts. They have left us out to dry. Their elimination strategy only focuses on the general population. Their vaccination strategy only focuses on the general population. None of which commits to the survival of the indigenous people of this country” Ngarewa-Packer said.

Figures from last week show Māori are behind all other ethnic groups for vaccinations. Only 57.6% have had their first dose – compared to 74% for Pacific communities, 81% for European and 96% for Asian. Case numbers in Auckland began rising after the government lifted the level 4 lockdown in Auckland, the city at the centre of the outbreak, allowing many businesses to reopen.

While prime minister Jacinda Ardern has not yet made any promises to open the border once vaccination rates rise above 90% in the general population, the government has indicated that it was a key milestone.

Te Pāti Māori said it had met on Monday with the Māori King Tūheitia and Māori leaders across New Zealand “to agree on a unified approach to ensure the survival of Māori as the reality of Covid hitting our communities is imminent.”

“How many Māori deaths are the crown prepared to live with? One is too many for us,” co-leader Rawiri Waititi said.

“We are now in survival mode and we are calling on the government to move Auckland into level 4 and the rest of the North Island into level 3 immediately until Māori are 95% vaccinated. Failure to do so is committing our people to death by Covid.”

Asked about the comments on Monday afternoon, Ardern said “I disagree with that”.

“In my view, the urgency is across the board but yes there is greater urgency for Māori because we have seen lower rates,” Ardern said. “But again, let’s celebrate the high rates as well and particularly for our over-65s, they are impressive.”


Tess McClure in Christchurch

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Death of child with Covid-19 prompts calls for Māori to be prioritised in NZ vaccine rollout
Māori boy who died last week was youngest New Zealander to die with virus and the first child

Eva Corlett in Wellington

20, Dec, 2021 @1:37 AM

Article image
'I am not Māori': New Zealand MP corrects party deputy leader amid diversity criticism
Gaffe by Nikki Kaye came after criticism over the new National party front bench’s lack of diversity

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

26, May, 2020 @2:56 AM

Article image
Waitangi Day: New Zealand Labour's Māori members arrive amid Covid measures
Coronavirus risk at events being managed amid trickle of cases in quarantine

Eleanor de Jong in Queenstown

02, Feb, 2021 @1:47 AM

Article image
New Zealand's Māori tribes set up checkpoints to avoid 'catastrophic' coronavirus deaths
Visitors will be urged to reconsider spending time in picturesque but impoverished communities at great risk from Covid-19

Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington

23, Mar, 2020 @11:30 PM

Article image
Māori tribe tells anti-Covid vaccine protesters to stop using its haka
Tribal leaders say they have lost many ancestors to previous pandemics and see vaccine as best protection against virus

Tess McClure in Christchurch

15, Nov, 2021 @3:57 AM

Article image
New Zealand Māori party calls for a ‘divorce’ from Britain’s royal family
Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the move was ‘an opportunity to reimagine a more meaningful and fulfilling partnership’

Tess McClure in Auckland

07, Feb, 2022 @1:15 AM

Article image
New Zealand Māori party launches petition to change country’s name to Aotearoa
Party wants all original te reo Māori place names to be officially restored across the country in the next five years

Tess McClure in Christchurch

14, Sep, 2021 @1:46 AM

Article image
Dying too young: coronavirus, my Māori family and me
Lockdown has granted me the blessing of getting to know my father, but it has also underlined the severe health inequalities we face

Shilo Kino in Auckland

08, May, 2020 @8:00 PM

Article image
In Kawerau one thing impedes the effort to vaccinate Māori: New Zealand’s history
Low Covid vaccination rates among Māori reflect practical barriers – but they also have good reason to distrust the government

Morgan Godfery

19, Oct, 2021 @6:00 PM

Article image
As New Zealand lifts Covid lockdowns, some small towns ask tourists to stay away
Local leaders, particularly in vulnerable Māori communities, fear travellers could bring the virus with them

Tess McClure in Christchurch

23, Nov, 2021 @6:00 PM