Dear Jacinda and Ashley,
We here in Tai Tokerau are struggling to understand why you are keeping us in lockdown. We know that Delta is a threat, twice as contagious as last year, and we have been doing our bit. We have been staying home, off the roads, being careful.
My daily exercise is a walk around our papakainga block, maybe as far as the beach. Normally all the cuzzies would be out, working in their maara, tinkering on the power tools, we'd have a little kōrero and catch up with the news.
Not now, everyone is in their whare, being careful. Even down at the beach, we stay separate, wave from afar.
So what is it you know that we don't? There are zero cases in Tai Tokerau, the closest is one case in Warkworth. Do you think we are part of Warkworth?
Newsflash, they are not us, they are Tāmaki, mostly Pākeha, well-off, middle class. Very different demographic, not our tribe.
We are 50 per cent Māori here in the Far North, more than one-third Māori in Tai Tokerau as a whole. We have some of the highest Māori population densities in Aotearoa.
Did you think about our Māori population when you made this decision?
Did you think about how pōhara many of the whānau are, already struggling to put kai on the table, did you think about what it means to be cut off from our kāpata kai, the moana and ngāhere that feed the whānau, not just literally but also emotionally?
Please, take a walk in our shoes for a minute.
I live in Te Rāwhiti, a small coastal community where fishing is an integral part of the way of life. Many depend on the kāpata kai moana to live. In the words of one of our kuia "the fishing korero is to us and Māori, very much part of our living. I married a hunter gatherer so that's half of our kapata kai gone. We live off the land and sea, now that's the supermarket."
For most who have grown up at Te Rāwhiti, fishing is a way of life, like breathing. Many whanau will fall mauiui (sick) just not being able to get out on the water. Some are Ngāti Wai, "people of the water" not just of the whenua, water is life! It is not just a kāpata kai, it is a life source and a rongoā.
It is holistic mind body soul wairua/spirit - whānau are connected to the water, to Tangaroa.
So what was it? Was it the Jafas recklessly rolling into Tai Tokerau after the announcement in lockdown?
Yes, we heard on the kumara vine that cars were sneaking in through the Russell back road right through until 5am. But they weren't just fleeing to the north, they were running away everywhere.
Anywhere in striking distance of Tāmaki would have seen the same phenomena.
Are you trying to assuage your guilt for not closing down the borders before the announcement? Where was your proportionate policing response then?
The Delta threat is higher but your response was slower and softer - only brought in border checks eight days later. Hone Harawira is on the money on this one. But why punish us for your mistake?
Did you think about trust? Did you think about fairness? Tai Tokerau stays in lockdown but Pōneke with 15 cases goes to Level 3 - seriously?
Did you think about how fragile that trust already is among Māori given the māmae (hurt) we carry from colonisation? Did you think about how hard you are making it for those of us on the ground that understand the Covid threat and are working with whānau to keep them calm and together, positive and moving forward, taking all precautions?
Your biggest asset is the confidence of the people, yes your leadership is important but what is a leader without followers? Where is your evidence-based decision making? Why do you not feel that we are owed a proper explanation, more than just a couple of throwaway lines about Warkworth?
These small breaches of trust are like the first chinks in a dyke that eventually leads to the water rushing through. You need to fix this, do it now.
Lamorna Ahitapu-Rogers is from Patukeha hapū o Ngāpuhi and lives in Te Rāwhiti, Bay of Islands.