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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. RAWIRI WAITITI (Co-Leader—Te Paati Māori) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. In particular, I stand by the Government’s announcement that the 3.4 million fully vaccinated New Zealanders can now get their My Vaccine Pass. My Vaccine Pass is an official record of a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status, and will provide access to places within New Zealand that require proof of vaccination under the COVID-19 protection framework. We don’t want anyone to miss out so we’re strongly encouraging those who have been putting off getting a vaccine to take that step now as we prepare to transition into the new protection framework. Can I add that, while we have excellent and growing rates of vaccine nationally, we know not everyone who is eligible has been vaccinated. This new framework provides greater protection for those who aren’t vaccinated by minimising potential spread of COVID-19.

Rawiri Waititi: Does she agree with the repeated decision of the Ministry of Health to refuse to share relevant Māori vaccination data with Māori vaccination teams on the front line?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m not sure that I’d consider that a fair characterisation, because Māori providers, of course, have been able to access data. Of course, we have seen a higher profile discussion and the court’s involvement in the request by Whānau Ora for access to individual data for the entirety of the North Island. There’s been different views, including from Māori providers, around whether or not that should be released. I know that progress has been made, and Whānau Ora—the provider in question—has, for instance, reached an agreement where they’re now accessing data in parts of the country, and they continue to work with the ministry on that wider access. Can I come back to a principle though: we all want to accelerate vaccination rates and access to data will help with that. But, obviously, the Ministry of Health is playing a role here, making sure that where there is some difference of opinion in accessing peoples’ personal information that they are working through that as quickly as they can.

Rawiri Waititi: Why is it that private enterprise Homecare Medical gets automatic access to data while Māori providers have to go through a laborious process including going to the courts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the member is characterising the sharing of that information as if Māori providers have not been able to; that is not the case. What we have here though is one agency trying to seek information for all Māori across the entire North Island, and some providers—including Māori providers—haven’t always been happy with that request, so we’re working through, in different regions, to seek agreement on that.

Rawiri Waititi: Has Dr Bloomfield been misleading the country by claiming in the media over the last few weeks that iwi individual data had already been shared with Whānau Ora, when the lawyers of the Whānau Ora commissioning agency have confirmed it hadn’t been?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, no. I don’t believe it’s fair to characterise Dr Bloomfield in that way. And again, as I come back to the principle, we all want to accelerate vaccination rates; that is a goal we all have. And yes, access to data is a critical piece to ensure that we’re reaching individuals. But there are some who have taken different views. We’re all trying to work through and resolve them as quickly as possible. And, as I say, my recollection is that, for instance, there’s already been an agreement reached for access in the Waikato, and we’re working through agreements in different parts of the country as well.

Hon Kelvin Davis: Is she aware that Te Kahu o Taonui, the Māori collective up North, has said that the only people that should see iwi data are those iwi themselves?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That, yes, characterises some of the issues that the ministry has been working through. This has been complex. But I do believe that, ultimately, everyone has the same goal here. It’s all a matter of how and making sure that we take into consideration those differing views. I know we need to move quickly. If I could finish, though, on just acknowledging that it’s all about acceleration. You know, at the moment, we’re sitting on first doses for Māori at 78 percent. While that’s been growth, we want to see that number much, much higher. But I take great heart from the fact that for our over-65s, we’ve got 92 percent fully vaccinated. That demonstrates what is possible, we now just need to make sure we move as quickly as we can.

Rawiri Waititi: Point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table solicitors’ letters that are not public that confirm that the Whānau Ora commissioning agency has not received individual iwi data.

SPEAKER: I want the member to confirm that either the addressee or the sender of the letter—it’s a matter for decision for the House whether they’re tabled or not, but we normally have an indication as to whether it has the approval either of the sender of the letter or the person who received the letter.

Rawiri Waititi: I can confirm.


Rawiri Waititi: What you have asked for.

SPEAKER: The sender or the receiver?

Rawiri Waititi: Both.

SPEAKER: Thank you. Is there any objection to those letters being tabled? We just take care of privilege, that’s all. Right. Legal privilege. Further supplementaries?

Rawiri Waititi: What is being done to develop a Māori home isolation strategy, given that 2,600 whānau, a considerable number of which are Māori, are isolating at home without adequate Government planning, resources, and support?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Well, I would really push back on the latter half of the member’s question. Yes, it is obviously fair to say that we have a system in place, as has the rest of the world, where we are caring for people in their home. Where we are unique is that we are still also using managed isolation facilities to support people’s care if they have COVID-19 as well. For detail on some of the work that’s being undertaken with different community providers—including Māori and Pacific community providers, because that is constant and ongoing work—the member may like to either ask questions directly of Minister Little or seek a briefing of him. But what I can say is that we do see this as critical. Both clinical assessment and providing for the welfare needs of those who have COVID in our community need to be provided appropriately with those who best understand their community and the needs of whānau.

Rawiri Waititi: Why did she implement unilateral Government vaccine mandates without seeking the active consent of tangata whenua, despite her obligation to do so under Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: So there was consultation with sectors for the implementation of the mandates across our healthcare workforce and for worker representatives across the healthcare workforce. My understanding is that the member’s party, I believe, supports mandates for the healthcare workforce. Where we perhaps part ways is we have a strong view that mandates in our education sector, which we don’t take lightly, protect our tamariki. We’re very firm on this. This is a group of individuals who currently do not have the choice of a vaccination. We see them, therefore, as vulnerable and the largest group that cannot be vaccinated in New Zealand. So yes, that’s an area where we also consulted with workforce, but our view is that we had a duty of care to tamariki.

Hon Kelvin Davis: Can she confirm that the Government has provided close to a quarter of a billion dollars to Māori health providers to address COVID in the Māori population?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can. In fact, the most recent instalment of that was, of course, the $120 million that was provided through the Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund. That’s split into two parts. Of course, preventative—we want to make sure that we are preventing illness by ensuring communities are vaccinated. So $60 million was put aside for that, and you can already see that very quick distribution across Māori providers who are able to both drive demand—they may not be the providers who are vaccinating, but they know their community and are able to drive demand and also provide vaccine, if appropriate, as well. The other $60 million is to support Māori providers for our care and community work, because, as the member has rightly suggested, it needs to be appropriate care, we need to be supporting whānau within the community if they happen to become infected with COVID-19, but all of our work is to try and prevent that.

Rawiri Waititi: Will her Government instruct Work and Income New Zealand to guarantee that there won’t be a stand-down period for those who have lost their jobs due to the vaccine mandate; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, if an individual loses their job because of a vaccine mandate then they are treated as anyone else who loses their job in the welfare system. So that means, of course, from my recollection, that stand-down periods don’t apply in those cases.

SPEAKER: Just before I do that, I will remind members in the gallery that the rules—yes, no I wasn’t referring to the mask, Mr McKelvie, but you should keep it up. The rules as far as phones are concerned are the same for members on the floor. Please keep them on silent.