12 May 2020

Rolling tangihanga allowed under alert level 2

6:44 pm on 12 May 2020

Rolling tangihanga will be allowed under alert level 2, enabling groups of 10 to view bodies at separate times.

Former Minister of Māori Affairs Koro Wētere was buried today at a family urupā near Te Kuiti. His body has been lying in state at Tūrangawaewae Marae since Saturday, when he died, a day after his 83rd birthday. His tūpāpaku will be taken to Ōparure Marae before being buried at a whānau urupā.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tangi and funeral limit would remain at 10 when the country moved to level 2 on Thursday.

It sparked backlash from Māori communities and leaders who said the low number for tangi was unfair.

This afternoon however, Ardern said more than 10 could attend if they viewed the body at separate times.

The announcement that tangi would be limited to just 10 people at level 2 hit close to home for Auckland lecturer Khylee Quince, who suffered the deaths of three uncles in the past few weeks.

The latest was yesterday, and the whānau hoped the move to level 2 would mean at least he would get a proper tangi.

"[I'm] definitely disappointed that there doesn't seem to be any - well, there is very little - shift from last week to this week and I think whānau were certainly hanging out for different rules, and trust, I suppose ... trust that we could safely gather together."

Ihipera Roberts (standing) with Yvonne Joe Roberts, Elizabeth Robens and Mihi Namana. L-R

Ihipera Roberts (standing) with Yvonne Joe Roberts, Elizabeth Robens and Mihi Namana. L-R Photo: SUPPLIED

In the past seven weeks, the rules around tangi have ranged from having none at all, to allowing up to 10 people.

Today, scores of people took to social media to complain that the limit had not changed.

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Wairarapa woman Irihapeti Roberts said her nana did not have long to live and they had been planning how to have a tangi safely.

She set up a petition to fight the 10-person limit.

"My main issue with the government and why I started the petition is because the restrictions to me imply a level of distrust, even through we ... as Māori came up with initiatives such as the east coast wave - the no hongi, those types of kaupapa before the government had restrictions in place.

"I feel that it is unfair for a lot of whānau who have been very patient in observing the rules since level 4."

Ngāti Rangi leader Che Wilson said it was disappointing considering the government had earlier indicated the limit would be 100 people.

He was one of many Māori leaders who gave advice to the government about how tangi could work safely at those numbers.

The new limit of 10 was unfair, given restaurants, schools, and shopping malls could all enjoy greater numbers at level 2, he said.

"If you put people under pressure and then they continue to see double standards, then that just gets people upset and angry.

"We just have to trust in New Zealand that New Zealand knows what to do."

Ministry of Health deputy director-general of Māori health John Whaanga said he had fielded some criticism over the limit.

There was wriggle room to the rules, he said.

Funeral directors had been allowed to have rolling viewings, with groups of no more than 10, through level 3.

"We are obviously aware that we have provided within funeral homes the ability for people to have more than one viewing of groups of 10 and we are looking at opportunities for how we might be able to do that in a marae setting now that marae are able to be open," he said.

"And also whether or not that's possible in a private residence, because under alert level 2 you are able to take tūpāpaku back to your private residence."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters that rolling tangihanga did fit within the rules.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a Covid-19 update conference at Parliament on May 12, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: Pool / Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

"If we had 10 people - sticking with groups of 10 - then that would be within the rules," she said.

"What we don't want is then all of them to come together at a conclusion, so a large wake or a large gathering afterwards.

"But yes, if you do have someone who is lying at marae and people are coming in in groups then yes that is something that could be managed and would be within the guidelines that have been set."

The details of how it would work at marae and homes - whether close family were included or not in the limit - were being hashed out.

For Irihapeti Roberts the change was bittersweet.

"That's awesome to hear that there could be a rolling situation but part of our issue too is not having an equal voice at the table.

"I feel like we have been silenced throughout this, or ignored."

By 4pm today, her petition to ease the restrictions on tangi had gathered nearly 3000 signatures.

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