Tribunal releases priority report on COVID-19 response

The Waitangi Tribunal has today released Haumaru: The COVID-19 Priority Report in pre-publication format.The priority inquiry focused on the Crown’s vaccination strategy and the shift to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (also known as the ‘traffic light system’).

Concerning the Crown’s vaccination strategy, the Tribunal finds that Cabinet’s decision to reject advice from its own officials to adopt an age adjustment for Māori in the vaccine rollout breached the Treaty principles of active protection and equity.

Regarding the Crown’s COVID-19 Protection Framework, the Tribunal finds that a new framework was necessary. However, the rapid transition into the framework – which happened faster than the Crown’s officials and experts recommended, and without the original vaccination thresholds for each district health board being met – did not adequately account for Māori health needs. As such, Māori have been put at a disproportionate risk of being infected by Delta in comparison to other popular groups. This breached both the principles of active protection and equity.

Additionally, the rapid shift to the COVID-19 Protection Framework puts Māori health and whānau ora providers under extreme pressure and undermines their ability to provide equitable care for Māori. This is in breach of both the principles of tino rangatiratanga and options.

Finally, the decision to shift into the COVID-19 Protection Framework was made despite strong, unanimous opposition from the Māori health leaders and iwi that the Crown consulted. Further, the Crown did not consistently engage with Māori to the fullest extent practicable on key decisions in its pandemic response. These actions are in breach of the principle of partnership.

The Tribunal recommends the Crown urgently provide further funding, resourcing, data, and other support to assist Māori providers and communities with:

  • the continuing vaccination effort – including the paediatric vaccine and booster vaccine;
  • targeted support for whānau hauaa and tāngata whaikaha;
  • testing and contact tracing;
  • caring for Māori infected with COVID-19; and
  • self-isolation and managed isolation programmes.

The Tribunal also recommends that the Crown improve its collection of ethnicity data and information relevant to Māori health outcomes and that it prioritise the work to improve the quality of quantitative and qualitative data on tāngata whaikaha and whānau hauā, in partnership with Māori disability care providers and community groups. All this data and information should be made public and be easily understandable and accessible, subject to relevant legislation.

Looking ahead, the Tribunal recommends that the Crown strengthen its monitoring regime to enable it to identify, in as close to real time as possible, whether or not its COVID-19 policy settings in relation to Māori are working as expected. This would enable the Crown to change those settings to achieve the desired and intended results and remain accountable to its Treaty partner.

The Tribunal recommends both the paediatric vaccine and the booster vaccine rollout expressly prioritise Māori and are supported by adequate funding, data, and resourcing for Māori providers.

Finally, the Tribunal recommends that the Crown strengthen its engagement with its Treaty partners. The claimants and the Crown have begun negotiations about a new national collective to assist with coordinating the Māori pandemic response. The Tribunal recommends that any further engagement between Māori and the Crown, with this national collective and with other Māori groups, should give effect to tino rangatiratanga and be broadly representative of Māori. Key Ministers and Crown officials must also be involved.

Haumaru: The COVID-19 Priority Report – Pre-publication Version is now available to download in both PDF and Word format:

Haumaru: The COVID-19 Priority Report – Pre-publication Version [PDF, 2.2Mb] [PDF, 2.2 MB]

Haumaru: The COVID-19 Priority Report – Pre-publication Version [Word, 6.7Mb] [DOCX, 6.5 MB]

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