21 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Māori leaders back extension of level 4 lockdown

2:35 pm on 21 April 2020

Māori leaders are backing the government's call to extend level 4 to next week. Here's what iwi leaders, Māori business leaders and education leaders have to say.

Public Health Doctor Dr Rhys Jones.

Dr Rhys Jones says Māori need to be protected from an outbreak. Photo: Supplied


Iwi Chairs pandemic response spokesperson Mike Smith said he approves of the government's decision to hold off on level 3.

"The feedback we were getting from most of our iwi is that they would prefer that we just went a bit further," the Far North iwi leader said.

"To provide surety and a little more security around moving to a safer place for our people.

In the Far North, Te Kahu o Taonui collective of 11 iwi is opposed to relaxing the restrictions any time soon.

Chair Harry Burkhardt said they had been contact with key community leaders and kaumātua.

"The local response is firm, they believe it is critical to stay where they are now as they do not believe they are safe yet," he said.

Smith said they are taking a very precautionary approach, which he said is a wise move.

Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā national Māori pandemic response group spokesperson Dr Rhys Jones was not too phased about where the alert levels sat.

He said Māori will be devastated if there is an outbreak of Covid-19, and they need to be supported.

"Regardless of what alert level we are at, the key point needs to be that we need to be doing what we can to support and protect those in the most vulnerable situations," he said.

Come Tuesday next week, tangihanga of up to 10 people will be able to go ahead, but no food will be able to be consumed afterwards.

Dr Jones said this was a step in the right direction.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre


Pomeroy Logging in Whanganui have felt the bite of Covid-19 since January.

Director Jennie Pomeory said while they had hoped to be able to get back to work on Thursday, they are not upset with the extension.

"We are ok with it because it is not a huge extension and weighing up the risk factor of the spread of Covid compared to the extra few days it will cost us economically, it's fine," she said.

"It hasn't upset us whatsoever, we are still ready to go."

As well as the forestry industry, construction is free to start up from Tuesday also.

Both industries employ high numbers of Māori.

Federation of Māori Authorities chair Traci Houpapa wanted forestry to start up on Thursday as originally indicated.

But she said the government's approach is measured.

"It still provides an end point for level 4 lockdown and that means businesses can get back to work and we can start preparing that," she said.

"And it also means that teams, harvesting and contracting teams, can start to reorient themselves with a safe start for the industry and that's encouraging."

Māori business network Poutama Trust chief executive Richard Jones said the heightened restrictions will push some businesses to the brink.

"We've had a number of businesses that have shut up and have said if it continues on then that's it, they're gone, there's nothing they can do," he said.

"Say if we stayed in level 4 or 3 for even another month, it would have a big impact on them.

"If they can't open up in a month, that's it, permanently shut down."


Māori medium schooling tauira under year 10 can return to kura on Wednesday next week if they need to.

But Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa, which oversees 62 kura, expects up to 70 percent of its students will stay home.

Chair Cathy Dewes, who is principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata, said she accepts the decision to open.

"I am comfortable with that so that people who need to go back to work for whatever reason ... we can help them by accepting their children back to the school environment because there is no one at home."

She said a challenge will be finding teachers who are low risk.

A number of their teachers have vulnerable people in their bubble, so only four teachers are safe to work in the classroom, she said.

The mainstream education system has been complaining about having to open next week.

But the rūnanganui chief executive Hohepa Campbell said kura kaupapa work to support the wellbeing of students and their whānau.

"Our kaiako are excited to get back to mahi and they want to get back to mahi because that is their job, to look after our tamariki as well as to teach our tamariki," he said.

"We are just looking now for different ways, we are planning, for that pathway to come back and successfully teach our tamariki in a safe way."

But sending tamariki back to kōhanga reo may not be an option for some whānau under level 3.

The National Trust said most of its workforce is elderly so up to 80 percent of kōhanga will remain shut under level 3.

Co-chair Daniel Procter said it is considering options.

"That may look like kōhanga reo merging to cover those whānau that need to return to work, and the kaimahi that are in that age bracket that are low risk, working together, to keep that bubble tight," he said.

"And continue to deliver our responsibility to those whanau so they can continue to put bread and butter on the table."

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