Some Taranaki Māori health leaders say $120 million of new funding will boost lagging Covid vaccination rates but systematic changes are still needed.
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare has announced $60m for iwi and Māori providers to accelerate Māori vaccination will be available from next week.
Henare said the spend would go where Māori vaccination rates are low: Taranaki as well as Counties Manukau, Lakes, Tairāwhiti, Northland and Bay of Plenty district health board areas.
"We know the recent lift in vaccination rates is the direct result of funding Māori providers and of Māori leadership efforts at a regional and national level. We need this to continue," said Henare.
The money won't be allocated by Health Ministry officials or district health boards, but instead directly by Henare, along with the Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
"From hāngi and vouchers, walk-in clinics and vax buses, partnerships with iwi, local communities and businesses, communities going door-to-door, vaccinations on sports fields and at kura and many more initiatives – we've seen what works and this fund will support more of it," said Henare.
In early November another $60m will be available for iwi and Māori-led responses to get ready for the spread of Covid, including testing and rapid-response to any outbreak.
For more than a week Taranaki DHB has been under fire from Government ministers and the region's Māori health leaders.
Just 63 percent of eligible Māori in Taranaki have had a first dose, compared with 84 percent of the region's eligible non-Māori.
Only 39 per cent of Māori are fully vaccinated, while 59 per cent of the region's total eligible people are double-jabbed – itself the lowest rate in the country.
The chief executive of health provider Tui Ora, Hayden Wano, said the region's iwi and Māori health leaders would have ready a proposal for new funding early next week.
He said the money would buy an immediate boost in vaccination capacity.
"For things you need to do mobile clinics, and to be able to set them up quickly; to increase our workforce capacity, so some training of additional vaccinators… and then of course there will be important things like incentives to encourage whānau to go and get their vaccination."
Wano said money would also be spent to build capacity for collaboration and planning behind the scenes.
"Things like back-office support, where you can use information and data to help guide planning and know where you need to put your efforts most – those sorts of things will bear fruit in the longer term."
Wano said under the urgency of the first lockdown last year the region's health services acted with a common purpose, but the system had since reverted back.
He says the new funding is an opportunity to make permanent improvements to collaboration, including with the DHB.
"The silver lining on this, although we've got a challenge in front of us, is that we can build some of these things… into the future."
The Māori Party co-leader of Ngāti Ruanui Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the new money was due to pressure put on the Government by Māori.
"It proves that the voice of the people on the ground does matter and you do have to keep pushing. So we'll take this win."
She said the funding will buy more vaccination efforts driven from grassroots, like Ngāti Ruanui's new mobile vaccination unit.
"This weekend we'll have a team of 12 recognised and trusted whānau members, who've been trained up to be assistant vaccinators, out working under registered nurses."
"They'll work as a stand-alone vaccination unit under the iwi."
The new van will be visiting neighbourhoods in Hāwera, Pātea, Eltham and possibly Stratford over the weekend.
Ngarewa-Packer said it copied a scheme invented by Auckland's Waipareira Trust, and could have been up and running long ago if the Government had not rejected the trust's Māori vaccination plan in February.
She said the Government had also ignored Māori concerns about the new traffic light alert system, which would be a real-life Squid Game leading to Māori deaths.
"It doesn't matter how dress it up or the new name they call it, there is no Treaty-based approach, there is no Māori strategy, there is no Māori Covid roll-out, there is no Māori mitigation plan."
"What's needed is single focused approach to Māori and Pacific addressing inequities."