Health officials are being accused of holding out on cash that would help a West Auckland Māori school boost Covid-19 vaccinations in their local community.
Low vaccination rates have made Māori among the most vulnerable across Aotearoa, with community leaders rallying to deliver vaccines straight to the doorsteps of those who need them.
But for Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi tumuaki Hare Rua, the desperation runs deep due to some of his school’s own tamariki testing positive to Covid-19, meaning the school is staying closed for the time being.
Rua asked the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre for $120,000 to support extra vaccination drives at the school, incentives to hand out to whānau, and funds to run vaccination events like Super Saturday.
But last week when their application was rejected, the Tāmaki Makaurau-based kura was forced to spend money from its own curriculum.
“I’m disappointed and gutted really,” Rua said.
“When you’ve got tamariki that you know of who have tested positive for Covid 19 over the last two weeks, we’ve gotten behind those whānau and supported those whānau in multiple ways and the DHB turned around to us and said no, we can’t help you.”
Rua said they were committed to mobilising into the hard-to-reach areas, but to not even receive part of the funding was upsetting and he felt that the DHB body did not truly understand how tough the fight had been on the ground.
“We’re just a small kura doing everything we can.
“To me, it just felt like, ‘oh well, no, we know how you feel, but we don’t feel the same way’.”
Hoani Waititi marae, while working alongside the kura to support vaccinations, has also been delivering kai and essential items to those most vulnerable.
But manager Shane White said they had been struggling and to see members of their community facing Covid-19 had been heartbreaking.
“Really broke my heart how some of our families have to live,” White said.
“One of these families that are isolating, we had to organise fridges and a washing machine for them, because they didn’t have those.
“We wouldn’t even have known, the only thing that really pushed them to reach out to the marae was Covid coming in and trapping them inside their house.”
RNZ contacted the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre, who would not confirm in a statement whether they had rejected the funding request or not.
They said they were working closely with dozens of Māori and Pacific providers and hundreds of GPs and pharmacies who were delivering vaccinations.
“Hoani Waititi Marae and Te Kura kaupapa Hoani Waititi are one of the many partners we have worked with on this programme and we are incredibly grateful for the support and guidance they have provided,” a spokesperson said.
“The request from the kura has been included as part of a much broader discussion we are currently having with all of our providers about a widening of our manaakitanga approach to the programme.”
Māori Health Minister Peeni Henare said while he had not seen the application from the kura kaupapa, it does suggest poor relations between DHBs and organisations who had direct connections to neigbourhoods and communities.
“So it does continue to raise concerns about whether or not the DHBs are there serving the communities they represent,” Henare said.
“If this is the relationship they’ve got with this kura kaupapa and this marae, the natural question is, what’s the relationship they have with the others?”
For now, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi remains in lockdown while they seek to help the positive cases in their community.
Hare Rua said that would be a lot easier if officials stopped burying themselves in red tape.
“We’re out there doing the job that they should be doing, they should be able to do that and just get in and back us up, support us with whatever we need,” he said.
“Nevermind asking questions or saying ‘I don’t know, does that qualify or not qualify?’ because what they did was they looked at the application and business plan that I put forward to them and they said ‘that doesn’t qualify.”
The school would not reopen until vaccination rates were higher and their tamariki were safe, Rua said.
The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre said discussions were ongoing and they were continuing to provide support to the kura in the meantime.