We are all in this together

7 April 2020

As Aotearoa New Zealand adjusts to the COVID-19 lock down the Independent Māori Statutory Board supports the advice of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern, that “we are all in this together.”

Make no mistake however, about how lock down affects us individually and collectively and especially for many Māori who were struggling before COVID-19.

Tāmaki Makaurau has more Māori than any other urban area in New Zealand combined. The daily lives for many of our whānau in sprawling suburbs like Manurewa, Henderson-Massey, Papakura, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Ōtāhuhu is immensely challenging. The Board is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of our people when COVID-19 forces many of us into situations where there are fewer options and restricted access to life’s necessities.

There are many vulnerable whānau with little resilience to COVID-19. Māori living below the poverty line, living rough, living without work and without hope. For many Māori who do have a roof over their head, there are still too many living in cramped, cold, damp, sub-standard housing. They are relentlessly compromised both physically and mentally, from marginalised whanau, where comfort, security, health and happiness are not what they enjoy. The notion of being “all in this together” has more than a hollow ring to it.

Our Board considers that for Auckland Council to be the most effective with utilising its resources, it is vital to take a strategic and targeted response to COVID 19 and have robust plans for the recovery phase when it comes. Specific targets discussed with Māori leaders, with measurements and indicators, will determine the right actions to take.

Council needs proactive and practical solutions for Māori. We are greatly concerned that the current approach is far too general and simply replicates what central government and many iwi organisations are already communicating.

The Board is advocating to council for alternative support at this time especially when free WiFi and other facilities, including parks and recreation facilities, important for wellbeing, are no longer available.

We urgently requested that funding be provided to Mana Whenua and Mataawaka entities and that those Marae and the nearby hau kainga on water tank supply be provided this free of charge. Watercare has agreed to the latter.

The Board considers that special provision must be made for Tangihanga in this rohe/region. We have requested that council provide free plots and burials in council-owned cemetaries for those whānau who have not been able to take their beloved member back to their tribal home that is outside the Tāmaki Makaurau rohe.

The Board has also requested that there be an increase to the support Auckland Council is providing to coordinate and promote food banks in highly populated Māori suburbs. Communications need to be tailored to a Māori-specific audience rather than general updates.

These are all actions the Board considers can be achieved for Māori immediately. These are some of the simplest ways to connect whanau with resources and facilities without the hoop-jumping and hassle that many are presently experiencing as the grip of lock down tightens.

In the face of COVID-19, for Māori to genuinely feel that we are as the Prime Minister says, “all in this together”, we say, “He waka eke noa”, we rise together, fall together, work together, keep going together.

David Taipari
Independent Māori Statutory Board