The National Party says it is "unbelievable" two senior Government ministers are publicly criticising the Ministry of Health for refusing to release Māori vaccination data while saying they are unable to do anything about it.
It comes as Ngāi Tahu pushes back on claims from the Prime Minister and director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield that the iwi had objected to the release of the data.
Whānau Ora today said it was going back to court for an urgent judicial review of Bloomfield's refusal to provide them with personal health data to help reach Māori who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19.
It comes amid a race to boost vaccination rates for Māori, who are 21 per cent behind the overall rate - due to a range of issues including poor access and older age focus of the rollout - and make up the majority of cases in the current outbreak.
Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said the ministry was "playing hard and fast with Māori lives".
"The ongoing roadblocks by Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health is taking its toll on Māori whānau."
The High Court initially ordered the ministry to reconsider its decision, on November 1, in a judgment which it said the process had "a lack of rigour" and did not "adequately consider Te Tiriti (Treaty of Waitangi) and its principles, as informed by tikanga".
On Friday Bloomfield told Whānau Ora after reconsidering it had again decided not to release the full vaccination data of all Māori in Te Ika a Māui (North Island) but would work with it in smaller areas.
The decision involved weighing up privacy concerns, and also cited objections from some iwi - including Ngāi Tahu - about data regarded as taonga being released without the appropriate authority.
However, Ngāi Tahu deputy kaiwhakahaere Matapura Ellison told the Herald they never objected.
Ellison said the iwi, which is running its own vaccination programmes, supported the release "as long as the Crown upholds it's Te Tiriti obligations, and the information is only used to help lift the vaccination rate to protect Ngāi Tahu whānui and whānau Māori from Covid-19".
It also needed to be done in a way that did not decrease the trust Ngāi Tahu whānui and whānau Māori have in the health system, Ellison said.
"If the Crown discloses health information in a way that harms this trust, this will have long-term impacts for the health of our people and may discourage whānau from getting vaccinated."
Whānau Ora has also pointed out the ministry has provided such data to other organisations - such as Healthline - and that the urgency of the situation outweighed other concerns.
Raukawa-Tait said time was of the essence as the Government readies to reopen the country in time for Christmas.
"We must be given an opportunity to vaccinate as many Māori whānau as possible before the borders reopen and Covid starts to run rampant in our communities," she said.
The ministry's decision has been criticised by both Health Minister Andrew Little and Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson.
Little today said he was not able to instruct the director-general on what to do, although he supported the ministry releasing the data.
National's Covid spokesman Chris Bishop said it was "unbelievable" for the Health Minister to make such a comment.
"It's not good enough for the Minister of Health to simply criticise his own Ministry for not releasing individual data to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency to help with the vaccine roll-out, he must actually do something about it."
National's Māori Development and Whānau Ora spokeswoman Harete Hipango said nine months ago when Whānau Ora requested to be part of the rollout this should have been accepted.
"We're now nine months into the rollout and Māori vaccination rates are 21 per cent below that of the general population. Time is becoming more critical by the day.
"These Ministers need to stop bloviating to media and complaining about their own Government and just sort it out."
On Monday Bloomfield told media the refusal was based on some iwi not wanting that data shared - including Ngāi Tahu, and others which he refused to name.
Bloomfield said the ministry had offered to work with Whānau Ora and other providers seeking data.
With Whānau Ora they were starting in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Kirikiriroa (Hamilton).
Already "very small area meshblock level data" was being provided for a range of Māori and non-Māori providers, he said.
The Government has come under heavy criticism for the structure of its vaccination rollout, which implicitly disadvantaged Māori due to its focus on older age groups and those working in essential services.
This was despite expert advice Māori be prioritised, given the younger age profile, known health inequities and access issues.
Currently 59 per cent of Māori eligible (aged over 12) have been fully vaccinated compared with the overall rate of 80 per cent.
The gap has been slowly closing, however, as since the rollout opened up to younger age groups Māori have been getting vaccinated at a rate higher than any other ethnicity.
In recent months the Government has also provided extra resources to Māori-led organisations to run vaccination campaigns.
A couple of months ago Māori first-dose rates were about 50 per cent behind the overall rate. A month ago the rate was 30 per cent behind, and of today it is 14 per cent behind.
Māori currently make up the highest proportion of cases in the latest outbreak, 38 per cent, with 1893 of the 4998 cases.