November 29 will be a sober day for the Government. The intoxicating effects of their last electoral victory will have truly worn off.
This is countdown day in terms of Covid-19 border controls, nationwide lockdowns, vaccine passports and the new traffic light pandemic device.
From the lofty "pulpit of truth", we will hear that Aucklanders ought to be free to mix, trade and travel at will. An overdue dividend for having abided by increasingly chaotic and confusing rules.
What will this mean for Tai Tokerau? Our Northland lockdowns have been erratic.
After several months with no cases, we were put in lockdown, apparently due to suspicions that infection was afoot, after Thelma and Louise wannabes busted over the Northland border.
Last week some of us came out of yet another lockdown, despite the fact we have Covid-infected households. Bewildering? Definitely time to move from pulpit policy to overdue execution.
When Auckland receives its freedom pass, it has no choice but to give access to the winterless North. Bureaucratic plans to check every vehicle and passenger fleeing Auckland will lead the Government towards Siberia, not a destination favoured by us in the subtropical climes of Tai Tokerau.
Whangārei, Bay of Islands, Dargaville, Kaikohe and Kaitāia firms, employees and communities need Auckland's pūtea. Our economic circumstances mean that we cannot fly solo and urgently need commerce to flourish.
There is a trade-off between vaccination scope and economic livelihood.
Our dismal Tai Tokerau jab rates mean we will not achieve 90 per cent in 2021. As I write this, we need to give 30,234 more Northlanders for their second shot to reach the Prime Minister's 90 per cent target. However, this is not a static target as it seems to change poll by poll.
The only way to make a dent in this large rump of indifference or marginalisation is to painstakingly trudge house to house, street by street, worksite by worksite. This laborious approach would be greatly aided by access to the Māori health data from the Health Ministry.
Of those 30,000 who have not been double-jabbed in the North, 56 per cent are Māori. This is largely a youthful group who are suspicious of elites, distrustful of bureaucracy and hate being told what to do by the Government.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield would appear to have given up on Tai Tokerau Māori reaching 90 per cent. His new priority is as a cultural referee between Ngāi Tahu and John Tamihere. It is alarming that Dr Bloomfield has elevated the anxieties of Ngāi Tahu and their dubious claims about data sovereignty over the jabbing of working-class whānau.
This was revealed in the recent High Court litigation between the Health Ministry and the Whānau Ora leader.
The Health Ministry continues to disregard the High Court in refusing to give vital health data to Whānau Ora providers in order to boost the Māori jab rate. It is astounding that senior ministers have allowed the ministry to disrespect and ignore the legal orders of Justice Cheryl Gwyn, a High Court jurist who was previously Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
Perhaps a spell in the Kaikohe pandemic trench on the frontline taking the needle to the people would pop the Wellington bubble of hubris?
Undoubtedly our vaccine rollout will continue during and after Aucklanders travel north for the summer. Some will say there should not be an open border until 90 per cent of Northern Maori are jabbed. However, we should remember that a majority of our Northland community have been vaccinated.
We appreciate the difference between BC/before Covid and AD/after Delta. We also know we need to be able to work, earn income, support their families and keep the north solvent.
After November 29 we will need to drastically increase our focus on treating Covid patients.
As we recover our liberties, it is inevitable the virus will continue its spread.
We have spent too much time listening to elites falsely telling us we could eradicate this virus. Who actually knows what is the endgame?
Over the past few months, the Government seems to have lost its way with too many changes in direction.
There are now a host of Covid patients isolating at home. Apparently, the health bureaucracy did not know how many Covid patients were recovering at home. Oddly enough, the media did know and managed to identify more than a thousand additional patients.
These numbers will increase as the virus wends its way through our community.
For those in our Tai Tokerau iwi who choose not to vaccinate and subsequently end up with Covid, such are the consequences in a pandemic.
Māori communities have always looked after their own and don't need to be permanently cast as "vulnerable". This thinking feeds a victim mentality.
The best shot at avoiding becoming a Covid victim is to get vaccinated, observe basic health rules, rebuild our economy and continue to enjoy the freedoms of our Northern birthright.
• Shane Jones is a former NZ First MP and was the first Minister for Regional Economic Development.