$900 million allocated for Māori in this years’ budget, what’s not to like? Less than 0.3% of the total budget for Māori and the highest polling results for Labour leadership in years plus a country bound to collectively dream of banishing a global pandemic from our lands.

Māori have had very low numbers of COVID-19 and thanks in no small part to the mobilisation of Māori led organisations. Te Ranga Tupua Response Hub here in Whanganui made up of over 36 partners in the region including Ngā Rauru, Whanganui, Tupoho, Ngāti Rangi, Uenuku Ngāti Apa, Ngā Waiariki, health providers like Te Oranganui, Mokai Patea working with Civil Defence Emergency centres, Whanganui District Health board and local, regional councils.

Te Ranga Tupua Response hub, set up to protect our kaumatua and vulnerable ones from COVID-19 these last six weeks, as we traversed the NZ lockdown stages of Level 4 Eliminate, Level 3 Reduce and now Level 2 Contain and maintain vigilance, the hub has supplied care packs to kaumatua, food packages, assisted in daily groccery shopping, the fulfilling of pharmacy scripts, dispensed ‘how to’ advice and been available via phone to just listen when people needed to talk. Our collective success has seen our region lead in the highest numbers of vulnerable Māori in the country to have had flu vaccinations. So it’s not a COVID-19 cure, however as Wheturangi Walsh Tapiata CEO of Te Oranganui has explained, it has proved that Māori have listened and are actively taking steps to protect our health.

The forced stay at home for our local businesses that have seen them cease, reduce and unsure if they will rise again relies on a recovery budget. Māori already over-subscribed in the unemployment stakes could now see the health gains achieved under lockdown vanish under the weight of this further enforced poverty.

So it was a relief when the PM Jacinda led Labour government announced $900million targeting Māori education, whanau ora, te reo, health for Māori.

Money however, can not assuage the grief that our loss of consultation as regards tikanga for tangihanga goes. While Māori iwi rose from all over the country to decry the initial government ruling of only ten people permitted at a tangihanga in Level 2, eventually changed thanks to our collective action to allow fifty mouners all up at tangi, bars and restaurants are allowed to have up to 100 patrons and serve alcohol, schools are able to operate and yes, even sex workers were all green lit.

The indignity of the rushed farewell for te reo activist and tribal leader Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru under Lockdown Level 4 remains a stark reminder of the pain we bear unable to farewell a much loved teacher, poet, mentor in a manner befitting his mana.

In lockdown Level 2 it’s like an ongoing slap in the face. Māori could not be trusted to grieve appropriately under pandemic restrictions, but we can send our kids to school, go out and get drinks in bars and buy sex services.

The indecent haste of the ill-fated Public Health Response bill passed with urgency with its rights to enter marae without a warrant needs immediate constitutional review and reform.

Let’s hope the ‘Be kind’ campaign that has captured the hearts and minds of a whole nation into a self-enforced economic plummet for the health of people, is much much more than very clever electioneering.

No reira ki te Premiere a Aōtearoa Jacinda Adern mā he mihi ki a koutou mo o mahi ataahua i tēnēi wā o Uru tā, “Mā te huruhuru ka rere ai te manu”, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui!

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