26 Oct 2021

Iwi call for alert level 3 in Te Tai Tokerau

3:11 pm on 26 October 2021

Iwi in the North are calling for alert level 3 in Te Tai Tokerau following the increasing amount of Delta Covid-19 cases popping up.

Police and Te Tai Tokerau Border Patrol checking for essential travel on State Highway 1 between Whangārei, Kaikohe and Kerikeri.

Police and Te Tai Tokerau Border Patrol checking for essential travel on State Highway 1 between Whangārei, Kaikohe and Kerikeri. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Olley

Te Poari o Ngātiwai chairperson Aperahama Kerepeti-Edwards has written to the government over the weekend to express his deep concerns over the lack of action over the Delta outbreak in the region.

There have seven positive cases pop up in Northland over the weekend.

He wrote to ministers and officials that Tai Tokerau has large rurally isolated communities, very low vaccination rates and a clear lack of resources to cope should a full Delta outbreak set in.

"Why have the government been quick to abandon the hard and fast rhetoric?" Kerepeti-Edwards said.

"The Northland cluster is growing and in four days we have gone from two to now seven cases. These cases are all rural Māori. We acknowledge the cases are all linked and isolating at home but given the level of risk it is still a huge concern for our people. It has been a long weekend with no real restrictions on travel across the region.

He has called for iwi inclusion in alert level assessments and decision making as is their right through Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Kahu o Taonui, the iwi leaders forum, has also raised their concerns with the government.

Co-chair of Te Kahu o Taonui, Harry Burkhardt, said they had been calling for level 3 before the latest Covid-19 cases were announced.

"The message from Tai Tokerau chairs was to take a precautionary approach and move to level 3. That was not about the cases we knew about, but more about what we didn't know," Burkhardt said.

"Our view was that it would be a short, sharp shift and then, once we've got our arms around these current cases and understood if there's any further risk then we could manage stepping back down to level 2 again."

Tai Tokerau Border Control also wants to see the region moved into alert level 3.

Chief executive Hone Harawira said in a statement he was "bloody angry" that Māori case numbers were out of control and that the government was still denying Māori access to the information and resources.

He had called for the government to "jam" the Traffic Light system on red, and take Auckland to alert level 4 and tighten up the borders.

This was before he learnt there were two Covid-19 positive cases in the North on Friday, then another three on Saturday and two more on Sunday, all being Māori.

He said increasing the level would help deal with the devastating impacts a major Delta outbreak would have in the North.

Harawira said the Government refused to update to alert level 3 in spite of that call.

He said a number of Kura, Kohanga and other Māori organisations had decided to operate as if they were in level 3.

"When government won't act to protect Māori from the threat posed by Delta, we must act to defend our whānau, our hapū, our iwi and our own communities," he said.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker, speaking to Midday Report, said if there were unprecedented cases in any part of NZ, alert levels should change.

"Contact tracing can't keep up despite it being used very rapidly. I would say it depends on the pattern of cases. What we see in the Waikato at the moment is that we definitely need to be in level 3 to support contact tracing to stamp out those cases.

"I would say it's the same in Northland, potentially if there's unexpected cases in the community and need the support to move up to alert level 3."

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