A Whanganui iwi leader is urging holidaymakers around the country to reconsider any plans to visit this summer because low vaccination rates mean Māori here are too vulnerable to Covid-19.
It follows a request from iwi in Northland to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for people not fully vaccinated to be kept out of that region.
Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui chairwoman Sheena Maru said members of the iwi were
concerned about the risk of holidaymakers coming to the region in the next few months.
"We know that a lot of tourists and visitors want to come to our beautiful rohe at this time of year, especially drawn to the awa or cycling the various tracks," she said.
"As a precaution, with the safety of our communities' front of mind, we are encouraging visitors to please stay home this summer, to minimise the risk of Covid-19 entering our community."
Maru's comments are directed towards people who are not from Whanganui and were thinking of coming for a visit and not those coming home to visit family.
The organisation said the Whanganui region had been lucky to avoid any Covid-19 cases in the Delta outbreak so far, but that could change once the Auckland boundary is lifted on December 15.
In Whanganui, only 63 per cent of Māori are fully vaccinated, which left part of the region particularly vulnerable to the virus, the iwi organisation said.
"We know that many whānau derive their livelihoods from businesses along the awa and as its community we must learn to live and work with the virus at some point," Maru said.
"But we recognise that currently the risk is too high for our people, and we need to achieve higher vaccination rates before we move forward collectively, or our kaumatua and mokopuna are at risk."
Maru said several marae along the isolated Whanganui River Rd remained closed.
"Our whānau and hapū are rightfully making their own decisions about what is right for them, and we are supportive of the stances they take to keep themselves safe from the virus.
"This is what it means to live as Te Awa Tupua, each taking care of their place for the greater collective."
Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) member Mary Bennett said although vaccine rates for Whanganui Māori were increasing there was still a way to go.
"Our iwi leaders are very concerned for our people and there has been a lot of work going on with pop-up clinics in both urban and rural areas," she said.
"We are concerned about people coming into the region over the summer."
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said it is a timely reminder to people who might be visiting over the summer.
"Obviously there will be locals coming home to visit their whānau over summer but this is more about tourism visitors.
"We have to be careful and keep people safe.
"We have been very lucky so far but we need to prepare for the certainty that Covid will come to this district and encourage everyone not to put others at risk."
Whanganui DHB medical officer of health Patrick O'Connor said there was only one message and that was to get the vaccine.
"The time is now and there is no better time," he said.
"If people have their first dose now they can be double vaccinated by Christmas."
The Northern Region district health boards supported an iwi call directed to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for people not fully vaccinated to be kept out of Tai Tokerau.
The calls were for unvaccinated or single-dosed visitors to be kept out of the region until Northland has 90 per cent of Māori and non-Māori vaccinated.