Sunday, November 28

Regional Health Coordinator Accused of Denying Vaccine Funding to Kura Kaupapa Māori

Health officials are being accused of withholding cash that would help a West Auckland Maori school push Covid-19 vaccines in their local community.

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Maori community leaders have teamed up to deliver Covid-19 vaccines directly to the doorsteps of those in need (File Image).
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Low vaccination rates have made Maori among the most vulnerable in Aotearoa, and community leaders come together to deliver vaccines right to the doorstep of those in need.

But for the director of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori or Hoani Waititi, Hare Rua, the despair runs deep as some of his school’s own children tested positive for Covid-19, which means the school will remain closed for the time being.

Rua asked the North Region Health Coordination Center for $ 120,000 to support additional vaccination campaigns at the school, incentives to give to whānau, and funds to carry out vaccination events such as Super Saturday.

But last week, when his application was rejected, Tāmaki Makaurau’s kura was forced to spend money from his own curriculum.

“I am really disappointed and heartbroken,” Rua said.

Hoani Waititi Kura Kaupapa Maori director, Hare Rua.

Hare Street.
Photo: Supplied

“When you have tamariki that you know that have tested positive for Covid 19 in the last two weeks, we lean on those whānau and support those whānau in multiple ways and the DHB turned to us and said no, I can’t help you.”

Rua said they were committed to mobilizing into hard-to-reach areas, but not even receiving part of the funds was disruptive and he felt the DHB body didn’t really understand how tough the fighting had been on the ground.

“We are just a little kura doing everything we can.

“To me, I felt like, ‘Well, no, we know how you feel, but we don’t feel the same way.’

Hoani Waititi marae, while working together with the Kura to support vaccines, has also been delivering kai and essential items to the most vulnerable.

Hoani Waititi Marae.

Hoani Waititi Marae.
Photo: Te Aorewa Rolleston / RNZ

But manager Shane White said they had been struggling and that watching their community members deal with Covid-19 had been heartbreaking.

“It really broke my heart the way some of our families have to live,” White said.

“One of these families who are isolating, we had to organize refrigerators and a washing machine for them, because they didn’t have any.

“We wouldn’t even have known about it, the only thing that really pushed them to get close to the marae was Covid entering and trapping them inside their house.”

RNZ contacted the Northern Region Health Coordination Center, who did not confirm in a statement whether they had rejected the funding request or not.

They said they were working closely with dozens of Maori and Pacific providers and hundreds of GPs and pharmacies that distributed vaccines.

“Hoani Waititi Marae and Te Kura kaupapa Hoani Waititi are one of the many partners we have worked with on this program and we are incredibly grateful for the support and guidance they have given us,” said a spokesperson.

“The kura request has been included as part of a much broader discussion that we are currently having with all of our providers about expanding our manaakitanga approach to the program.”

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Maori Health Minister Peeni Henare says the situation raises questions about the relationships between DHBs and community organizations.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Maori Health Minister Peeni Henare said that while he had not seen the kura kaupapa’s request, it does suggest poor relationships between DHBs and organizations that had direct connections to neighborhoods and communities.

“So it continues to raise concerns about whether DHBs are there serving the communities they represent,” Henare said.

“If this is the relationship that they have with this kura kaupapa and this marae, the natural question is, what is the relationship that they have with others?”

For now, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori or Hoani Waititi remains locked up as they seek to help positive cases in their community.

Hare Rua said it would be much easier if officials stopped sinking into bureaucracy.

“We’re doing the job that they should be doing, they should be able to do that and just come in and support us, support us in whatever we need to do,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter asking questions or saying ‘I don’t know, does that qualify or not?’ because what they did was look at the application and the business plan that I presented to them and they said ‘that does not qualify’.

The school would not reopen until vaccination rates were higher and its tamariki were safe, Rua said.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Center said discussions were ongoing and that in the meantime they continued to support the kura.

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