Low Covid vaccination rates among Māori in Hawke's Bay are a product of ongoing mistrust of the Government, but it's not too late to turn them around, Māori leaders say.
As of Tuesday, just 54 per cent of the Māori population in Hawke's Bay had received one dose of the Covid vaccine.
That compares to 75 per cent of the total population and 90 per cent of the Pasifika population.
Former Miss Universe New Zealand Harlem-Cruz Ihaia, who got her first dose of the vaccine recently to protect her pepi, said the figures were unsurprising.
Ihaia, who now works as an early childhood teacher at Te Kūpenga o Te Mātauranga Kōhanga Reo, said the low rates was evidence of the mistrust the Māori community had for the Government and a change of tack was needed to persuade the remaining 46 per cent.
"The Government is putting fear into our people to vaccinate and vaccinate now as opposed to empowering our people," she said.
"I feel like we have been put into a place where the Government is expecting us to act fast.
"We feel like we don't have a choice, and are being isolated again bringing back the whole intergenerational trauma of colonisation, and the cycle repeating itself.
"It's all happened so fast. We are being told what to do and a lot of Māori people are fearful because of how fast the vaccine is being rolled out."
Ihaia said she would be getting her second dose of the vaccine in two weeks because she had made the choice "to lead by example".
"Not because the Government asked me to, but because I wanted to protect my whanau especially my 14-month old son Rangiātea Ihaia Broughton.
"I want our community to make their own decision based on the information available out there, not the misinformation.
"I want them to be able to take the time to decide and hopefully make a decision for their whanau and for the generations to come."
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a three-step 'road map' to lessen lockdown restrictions, effectively ending the nation's elimination strategy.
Addressing the low rates of Māori vaccination Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said they had tried all aspects of communication but they continued to come up against a wall and there just appeared to be a lack of trust from them towards institutions.
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer said the PM's plan to abandon elimination despite low vaccination rates showed "Māori were always expendable".
"We are urging Iwi and Hapū to pull together and develop their own plans and strategies as a first line of defence, particularly for how they manage tangihanga," Ngārewa-Packer said.
"We must be proactive about our own bottom lines. Covid coming our way is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when."
Hawke's Bay Regional Council councillor Hinewai Ormsby said people only needed to look at the influenza pandemic 100 years ago to understand the sort of impact a Covid outbreak would have on Māoridom.
"The influenza pandemic decimated Māori villages, but we didn't have the availability to vaccinate then, we have the ability to vaccinate now," Ormsby said.
"I want our people to understand that if they don't get the vaccine, fine. But they should be prepared to get Covid or have a family member or loved one to get Covid."
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said more resourcing needed to be provided to enable a "by Māori, for Māori, with Māori" approach by Iwi, Taiwhenua, and kaupapa māori providers and organisations to lead out vaccinations for the Māori people.
"The Tihei Mauri Ora model is this approach which proved its effectiveness to reach and support our most vulnerable whānau (whānau pounamu) regardless of ethnicity during the Covid lockdown in 2020," he said.
"While the Tihei Mauri Ora hubs have continued to provide leadership and coordination within their communities throughout the Delta outbreak, they have limited funding from Iwi and TPK and their local DHBs."
The Tihei Mauri Ora Centre based in Hastings is manned by Health Hawke's Bay and HBDHB staff.
"This team have provided heat and eat meal packs on a large scale to whānau pounamu and to vaccination centres at Marae and general practices to encourage whānau to be vaccinated," he said.
"But these need to be scaled up if we are to achieve equity of vaccination.
"This approach needs to be resourced by Crown agencies and include the provision of mobile vaccination facilities."
Covid vaccine numbers
As of Tuesday, more than 180,000 doses of the Covid vaccine had been delivered across Hawke's Bay.
Total numbers- 181, 603 vaccinated
Māori- 54 per cent (at least one dose)
Pasifika- 90 per cent (at least one dose, including Hawke's Bay Pacific residents and RSE workers)
Overall - 75 per cent (of eligible population who have received at least one dose)