Waitangi Tribunal to hold special hearing into govt handling of Covid-19 for Māori


The Waitangi Tribunal has granted a special hearing into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic for Māori.

Unite against Covid-19

File image. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The application was filed last week by the Māori Council and other leaders, who say the Covid-19 framework significantly and irreversibly prejudices Māori.

The application said an across-the-board 90-percent vaccination target disproportionately exposed Māori to life-threatening risks and that the Crown was violating its responsibility under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to provide reasonable protection to Māori.

In the latest statistics, 80 percent have had one dose of the vaccine and 65 percent are fully vaccinated.

That is compared to 84 percent of the general population who are fully vaccinated.

The week-long inquiry will take place from 6 December.

The tribunal granted the special hearing given the national significance of the matter and the pace of policy development and potential impacts for Māori.

“The Covid-19 environment is changing at a very fast pace and the Crown wishes to have the best information possible when making decisions, particularly with regard to the rollout of vaccinations, and in this regard, the Crown welcomes the Tribunal’s expertise as a specialist body on Te Tiriti issues,” the tribunal said.

The scope of the inquiry will look into the disproportionate numbers of Māori vaccination rates and Covid-19 cases.

It will also ask whether the Crown’s vaccination strategy and the Protection Framework, also known as the Traffic Light system, consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles.

The Tribunal will explore what, if any changes are required to ensure the Crown’s vaccination strategy and the Protection Framework are Te Tiriti compliant.

“We consider that this scope is sufficiently broad to deal with the issues at hand, while also being suitably targeted to achieve a priority inquiry in the limited time available.

“Having said this, we encourage parties to work together to maintain focus and discipline throughout this process.”

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