The Northland District Health Board's Covid-19 response has cost more than $2 million.
Harry Burkhardt (Ngati Kuri), the board chairman, said that was what it took to keep Northlanders safe during April.

Northland has had 28 cases with no deaths. "We threw resources at protecting our communities," Burkhardt said.

The board spent $2.01m fighting the virus during April.

"You can look at it as a $2.01m investment in keeping 180,000 people safe from Covid-19 and yes, there's an implication on our balance sheet," Burkhardt said.

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"We have mitigated community transmissions which were always a big risk," he said of New Zealand's combined national pandemic response.

The cost meant the board's April balance sheet's deficit grew to $3.228m – more than an approved $1.127m deficit for the month.

"The investment we made has kept the majority of our people safe," Burkhardt said. "Our responses as an organisation to our community have been all the right ones."

April's figures are part of 10-month-old year-to-date $14.046m deficit for the 2019-20 year - $4.705m higher than approved $9.341m levels.

"The unfavourable (financial) result for the month was almost entirely due to incremental cost related to our response to Covid-19," Nick Chamberlain, the board's chief executive, said.

Burkhardt, appointed by the Government as chairman in December, said the board operated in an ecosystem with some components beyond its ability to control. The real cost of running the business needed to be considered in the context of what was happening at a national level.

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The board is one of 20 district health boards around New Zealand with $563 million in debt.

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"Accounts and balances don't tell the whole story," Burkhardt said.

Perhaps it would be better to measure in terms of the value created for consumer, he said. The health response had been a collaborative effort across a wide range of people and organisations.

The Northland Iwi Chairs Forum (Te Kahu o Taonui) had played a crucial role in regional response success. Te Kahu o Tanui's participation had shown the limited reach of government agencies.

"They linked into us so we could both go fast," Burkhardt said of Northland's response.

Its participation had enabled stronger links with Māori , one example of this enabling the pandemic response to reach remote Māori communities at the end of gravel roads.

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