23 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Māori health funding welcomed by iwi, leaders

1:05 pm on 23 March 2020

The government's funding package to for curbing the Covid-19 coronavirus' effects on Māori is just the beginning, Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare says.

Peeni Henare

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The government was under pressure last week, with Māori leaders and health experts have been calling for a targeted approach for Māori as the numbers of cases rises.

Research shows the extreme health inequities Māori face - and there have been fears Māori could be worse-hit if Covid-19 spreads further in New Zealand's communities.

Yesterday however, the government announced $56 million would be used to help Māori communities and businesses respond to the pandemic, a move that was well received by iwi and other Māori leaders.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

The plan would deliver $30m in targeted health funding to Māori with a further $10 million for whānau Māori community outreach.

Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare said it was just the start.

"We will continue to keep an eye on what is happening for our Māori communities and make sure that any response from here on out is appropriate.

"I suspect, which is why we have been clear in our communication, this is the initial response. I have no doubt that as the weeks and months unfold through these difficult times there will be a requirement for more support."

Some $40m of the funding would come from the $500m targeted health funding announced last week, with the rest of the pūtea coming from a range of areas including the Whānau Ora funding boost announced last year, and $10m from the Māori Development vote in the budget which allows Te Puni Kōkiri to function.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said the budget was significant, and people should bear in mind that the wider $12.1bn economic stimulus package was already catering to Māori.

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Employment Minister Willie Jackson Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

"We are hitting all of our people in the cities and in the regions who are not part of these Māori health providers set up, not part of the Whānau Ora set up, but this particular funding that we are giving out now complements that general strategy and that was always important."

$15m will be distributed among the Whānau Ora commissioning agencies.

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The chair of one of them, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, said although it would have been helpful to have the money earlier she was pleased with the announcement.

"We have done the best that we have been able to do, but you are always limited by the resources you have available and of course now we have to get into it quick smart.

"Our providers have been in contact with us and we have been in contact with them over the past few weeks alerting us to the situation in their areas and what we will need to do at some stage - so we are obviously ready to hit the ground running."

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait Photo: Supplied

Iwi rūnanga have been putting their own response plans in place - including delivering care packs to kuia and koroua.

Some of the money is expected to be available to help assist them.

Tūwharetoa Trust Board chief executive Shane Heremaia confirmed that one of its staff members, Te Mahau Kingi, was the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Taupō.

He is doing well - and the board has now put a clear response plan in place.

Heremaia welcomed the fund.

"For Ngāti Tūwharetoa, we are working hard to serve our people at this time and any resources that might be made available would be most welcome so we are interested in seeing how that package of support will roll out - but certainly it's a great thing."

Key events on the Māori calendar continue to be cancelled and marae are closing their doors as communities brace for what is to come.

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