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'History has shown that profiling continues': Greens fear vaccine pass spot checks will target Māori

Newshub logo Newshub 18/11/2021 Zane Small
Watch: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson speaks to the media about the move into the new 'traffic light' framework. © Newshub Watch: Greens co-leader Marama Davidson speaks to the media about the move into the new 'traffic light' framework.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson fears COVID-19 vaccination certificate spot checks will unfairly target Māori. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday the Auckland border will drop on December 15, by which time all of New Zealand is expected to be in the new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system. 

Freedoms will then be determined by vaccine certificates. For example, when Auckland enters the 'red' light, hospitality venues can open with up to 100 fully vaccinated people but businesses that choose not to use certificates must remain contactless. 

Travellers will need to show their vaccination certificate or proof of a negative test result in order to travel regionally or else face a $1000 fine, during spot checks. 

Davidson is worried those spot checks will disproportionately affect Māori. The latest Ministry of Health data shows just 62 percent of Māori are fully vaccinated, compared to 82 percent of the entire eligible population. 

"History has already shown that profiling continues to be an issue across many of our systems. Also the systematic racism we have seen in the very health system has already shown us that we need to be asking real questions about ensuring this does not happen in this case as well," Davidson told reporters. 

"We welcome vaccination certificates because that is about protecting our children and our at-risk and immunocompromised people. But we absolutely need to make sure everyone who needs to access a vaccination certificate can get one."

The Greens are against opening up on December 15. 

"We think that by setting a date without first having tested the traffic light system can bring cases down or stabilise cases, is a massive concern for us," Davidson said. 

She fears for regions with low rates, like Northland and Tairāwhiti. 

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"Absolutely. We need to see vaccination rates that are equitably high, including for Māori communities. We need to see regional public health systems prepared for the summer influx. 

"We absolutely need to see the traffic light system being tested and refined, making whatever changes are necessary to be able to stabilise cases.

"We see from history that if we don't proactively protect Māori, we see harm and lives lost for Māori communities, and that for us as the Greens is unacceptable."

The new framework was originally pitched as coming into force once 90 percent of the eligible population across each District Health Board (DHB) was vaccinated. That target has now been dropped - and the Greens aren't happy. 

"We are not happy about that," Davidson said. "We think it's a mistake. We think that the borders and moving to the traffic light system regardless of vaccination rates is an absolute mistake."

And despite several Māori leaders calling for Northland to be cordoned off while vaccination rates ramp up, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it won't happen. 

"We can't ultimately make the rest of the country wait while we continue to chase vaccination for those who haven't yet been vaccinated," Hipkins said. "We're working very, very hard to get vaccination rates among Māori up and we'll keep doing that over the coming weeks."

Te Pāti Māori say the Government has failed to provide equitable opportunities for Māori to access information, resources and vaccinations. 

"Their latest mandate programme is a knee-jerk reaction to a failing system that has not been well thought out," said co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"They have consistently provided a one size fits all approach. A narrow-minded approach that has vilified the unvaccinated people in this country. This has caused vaccination hesitancy and the division we see in this country."

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Labour deputy leader and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis disagrees. 

"The Māori Party are undermining the efforts that the Government has put in place to get Māori vaccinated and yet they're still saying they want to get up to 95 percent. That's a fine goal, but don't go and undermine all the actions the Government has taken to try and get Māori vaccinated."

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said on Thursday the Government had approved $46.75 million and signed 26 contracts to rapidly accelerate Māori vaccinations across the country. 

The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, contracted to fund and support initiatives that deliver for Māori, has been fighting in court to get more data from the Ministry of Health to help target those Māori who are yet to be vaccinated

"The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency are only one of the stakeholders involved here and some of the iwi organisations who some of those people are involved with for their healthcare don't necessarily want that information being shared with the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency," Hipkins said. 

"It's not just health whose needs have to be balanced here. The other holders of this information have to be considered and the people's information whose it is also need to be considered in that as well. 

"I know the Ministry of Health really wants to work with all of those agencies and all of those Māori health providers who are keen to get those vaccination rates up. They're keen to work with them to help them achieve that goal."

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