16 Nov 2021

Covid-19 the focus of National Iwi Chairs Forum final hui for 2021

7:14 pm on 16 November 2021

Iwi-led initiatives in response to Covid-19 were the main focus of the final hui of the year for the National Iwi Chairs Forum.

image_crop:121957:full] The pōwhiri at the start of the National Iwi Chairs Forum at Takapūwāhia marae in Porirua in May. The latest hui was held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Chairs, chief executives and technicians of the 73 iwi entities attended the hui, which was held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The NICF is hugely supportive of, and has been actively advocating for, direct resourcing of the many iwi-led initiatives in response to the Covid-19 threat transpiring across the country, Te Kaahui o Rauru tumu whakarae (chairperson) Mike Neho said.

"Our people are working incredibly hard to do the very best we can to save Māori lives. The NICF has been meeting regularly with ministers and government officials as part of our response and continue to highlight the ongoing needs of whānau, hapū, and iwi."

The NICF Pandemic Response Group provided a strategic approach to Covid-19, focusing on data, advocacy, intelligence and planning, and communication and political strategy, he said.

Beyond the pandemic response, work across the NICF Pou (pillars) continued. Pou Chairs reported back to the group on day one of the hui, with progress recommendations for mahi undertaken since the last quarterly hui held in Whanganui in August.

Hui chair Rahui Papa opened the ministerial engagement on day two, with an emphasis on working in partnership, highlighting the need for iwi to be included in designing solutions to meet the needs of whānau, hapū and iwi.

"Māori will bear the brunt of inequity caused by Covid going forward. Unemployment, education, family violence, water issues to name a few will be severely impacted for whānau, hapū and iwi and will need to be addressed in early planning alongside iwi," Papa said.

Government response

Minister for Māori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis led off the government response in relation to iwi engagement and the Covid-19 response. Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta, zooming in from Australia, provided an update on the Three Waters programme.

Ministers David Parker and Kiri Allan addressed the recommendations from Pou Taiao (the environmental pillar) on Resource Management Act reforms and Freshwater rights and interests.

Minister Kris Faafoi highlighted progress on eliminating racism and justice sector reforms with Davis sharing the positive outcomes being made across the justice sector with significant reductions in incarceration rates.

Ministers Willie Jackson and Peeni Henare were supportive of the recommendations on housing and trade and the work being undertaken by Pou Tahua, the economic pillar, as iwi led housing pilots continue to gain traction.

Minister Carmel Sepuloni provided updated insight into the health and disability reforms. Climate change pillar, Pou Take Āhuarangi updated ministers on progress and concerns with response to the climate crisis.

Key points raised by the chairs during the interaction included an emphasis on the need to address inequitable outcomes for Māori as the country navigates the realities of living with Covid-19.

The NICF particularly identified concerns in relation to the impacts of job loses and subsequent income loss, the urgent need for support of whānau with Covid-19 isolating at home, following the number of deaths in the last week, and educational outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi due to ongoing Covid-19 disruptions.

"We are interested in understanding how the Government is investing in our health system now to ensure we are able to cope in the future, not only with Covid-19 but the many rising health concerns of our whānau and vulnerable communities, including inequitable cancer outcomes and increasing mental health issues," Neho said.

The online hui concluded on the Friday, with planning for the next hui scheduled for February. The NICF determined to make a decision closer to the time as to whether or not the hui, traditionally held at Waitangi will be able to go ahead face to face.