23 Nov 2021

Te Urewera to remain closed as Tūhoe prioritises safety of its people

11:29 am on 23 November 2021

Te Urewera has been closed to visitors since the move to Covid-19 alert level 4 in August, but unlike Auckland, it won't be opening back up to the public until late January.

Tamati Kruger says Mana Motuhake is about solving your own issues.

Te Urewere Board and Tūhoe Tribal Authority chair Tāmati Kruger. Photo: Supplied

The region is home to Tūhoe and includes some of Aotearoa's most remote, and most vulnerable communities.

Reliable vaccine uptake data is scarce, but tribal leaders estimate that just 40 percent of the eligible Te Urewera population have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

Part of the problem is that the communities aren't hooked into the 1pm briefings, instead relying on leaders to explain Covid-19 updates, Te Urewera Board and Tūhoe Tribal Authority chair Tāmati Kruger told Morning Report.

"There's also the distrust by some people of the vaccine, the growing pains of the Tūhoe-Crown relationship that moving from 170 years of distrust and indifference to something a little bit better, a friendship that's going to take some time.

"But we're quite positive that we can look after ourselves and those vaccine rates may climb up a little bit more."

Kruger said they are rehearsing an outbreak and living with Covid.

"Our priority is really around the safety of everybody."

With the nearest hospital a two-hour drive away, the Tūhoe iwi authority has invested in a system of quarantine that runs like MIQ.

"We are working with our four medical centres, Tūhoe owned four medical centres, and our clinicians there, our doctors there, we have been very busy with our local rollout."

In Tāneatua, the local rollout has reached 55 percent of people for their first vaccination, and around 40 percent are fully vaccinated, he said.

Fifty-five percent of Kawerau medical centre enrolled patients are fully vaccinated.

"We've brought ourselves a mobile clinic that can visit marae and people at their own home. We are looking at setting up isolation points, quarantine points. We have people that are ready to do whānau care, people that are already qualified to do vaccinations and putting up test stations. We are purchasing, as much as we can, our own medical equipment in preparation really."

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