By Jamie Tahana, RNZ
The Ministry of Health says it is reconsidering its decision to not give Māori vaccine data to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency after the High Court ruled against it.
In a ruling late on Monday night, Justice Gwyn said the ministry had erred in its interpretation of the privacy code and did not give regard to Te Tiriti o Waitangi or tikanga obligations.
The agency, which has a network of 96 Māori providers with 200 vaccination sites across the North Island, wants vaccine and contact information for all Māori to create a tailored rollout.
Its chief executive John Tamihere said it would help in efforts to close the gap between Māori and non-Māori vaccinaton rates, which averages about 20 per cent.
"It beggars belief that in the middle of a pandemic we have to take our own Government and our own ministry to court and vindicate the fact that we have ability, we have capacity, we can think, and we could have rolled this out in a different way and had a different result," Tamihere said on Tuesday.
The Health Ministry declined the agency's request last month, citing privacy reasons.
Instead, it would only release some data for people who are registered with or who have used a Whānau Ora provider before. It also agreed to release other data that is anonymised to local areas.
The ministry told the High Court last week it would prefer a wait-and-see approach, only releasing data to Whānau Ora agencies if the rollout hit a wall, though it did not specify any kind of threshold.
Tamihere said that level of information would be largely useless if it was to get to hard-to-reach communities.
In her ruling, Justice Gwyn said the pandemic constituted a serious threat to public safety and the criteria applied by the ministry in making its decision on privacy grounds was inconsistent.
The agency had also argued the Crown is obliged to facilitate a kaupapa Māori programme and to ensure equitable outcomes.
The Government has said the Covid-19 response was drawn up with treaty principles at its heart, but the agency argued that if this were the case, then kaupapa Māori providers would be treated as equals, including when it sought information.
They also argued they had kaitiaki obligations towards unvaccinated Māori, which were being hindered by the Crown's refusal to share data.
Justice Gwyn also found that the ministry had failed to consider such treaty obligations in making its decision.
"The [ministry's] decision was to provide only the anonymised, mapping-level data, on the basis that the ministry might, on some unspecified date, and on the basis of some unidentified criteria, review the decision," she wrote.
"It is difficult to see how that decision could have been informed by the principles of partnership and options, in particular."
In a one-line statement, a ministry spokesperson said it acknowledged the court's findings and "will be reconsidering its decision in line with the court's decision".
It did not say if it was considering an appeal or if it could meet the three-day deadline.
Speaking to Midday Report on Tuesday, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson also acknowledged the ruling.
"We have always said that we must get as much information to our people as possible," he said. "We have not resiled from that.
"We hope that the ministry, after they consider where they're at, can work with the commissioning agency very closely and get the information that they need."