New Zealand needs to get vaccinated now to beat Delta - and that's why NZME has launched The 90% Project. We want to help 90 per cent of Kiwis to get vaccinated to save lives and reopen our country to the world.
Here, Marama Royal, chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, says vaccination is the only viable path to avoid the devastation of lockdown, and explains why she doesn't have a Facebook account.
My moko asks me "when are we going to open the gates" Nan?
He is so small and full of energy, and sadly for more than three months of his young life he and his whānau and friends have had to experience a lockdown because of Covid-19.
"When they open the gates, we can visit our whānau and I can go and play with my cousins and friends," he said to me.
It saddens me for my moko, and for all across Aotearoa, but especially here in Tāmaki Makaurau, where we have endured so very much since the name coronavirus took on so much more meaning when it arrived on our shores in March last year.
I am so very proud of the way my Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei people and many others across our shared communities have come together to support each other and to reach and awhi our most vulnerable. I am proud of the work of our kaimahi who have continued to do their mahi and support not only our whānau, most in need, but also many others who live throughout our hapū lands of central Auckland and further afield.
As a hapū we have set up phone support to reach out to our whānau to offer tautoko and someone to listen and to understand their needs. We have worked with Māori support groups across Tāmaki Makaurau through a Māori food network, formed in 2020 to coordinate support services aiming to reach more than 200,000 whānau.
This initiative has taken on significantly increased demand due to the impact of Covid-19 and shows the immense value that comes from working together as Māori, and in finding Māori solutions to real pressing problems.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have also focused on our kaumātua especially, reaching out to them weekly, and by providing meals with more than 1200 a week delivered which we will continue through level 3.
While it has been warming to see the awhi and tautoko and coming together that occurs in time of need and adversity, it is increasingly clear that there is a growing weariness with the hard lockdowns that have been the key plank in our national Covid-19 strategy.
Vaccination is now the only viable path to avoid the disruption, uncertainty and economic devastation of lockdowns. I grieve for those who have not been able to provide the appropriate farewell to loved ones who we have lost through this lockdown. For those unable to be beside those who have nurtured and supported us across our lifetimes, when they have taken their final breath. It is a terrible burden to impose on anyone to not allow them tangihanga and the sacred process that all cultures know and embrace when we give our final farewell to those we love. Or to be able to be there when we welcome new members to our whānau.
As a hapū, we are doing all we can to encourage our people and many others across our communities to get vaccinated. Our vaccination centre in Tāmaki has vaccinated more than 30,000 people, averaging 4400 per week, some of the highest rates across the Auckland District Health Board.
This shows the benefit in allowing Māori to be a key part of the solution. Because there is a problem and the reason for the relatively low Māori vaccinations rates are complex. There is no single solution that will help get Māori vaccination rates high enough so that hard lockdowns are no longer required.
Why are Māori more suspicious of the Crown and especially its directions in relation to health? Why do some of our whānau take to sharing misinformation through their networks that is unhelpful and often untrue, and why are some of our people disproportionately so ready to embrace this misinformation?
I am very old school, so I do not have a Facebook account, much to the fascination and shock of many. I seek out those who I know to be experts when I need advice, I talk to my kaumatua on cultural and spiritual matters and engage with my whānau and people in person when I can, increasingly on Zoom and the phone in lockdown. I do not see the misinformation that is shared via social media networks, and I have no interest in it, but I understand the problems it causes, and the ease with it is able to be spread these days by those intent on mischief and confusing people who are afraid and already uncertain.
But I also have hope, and it comes from the experience of one of my kaumātua who shared his journey with me after he like me had had his second vaccination shot.
He said he had become uncertain due to misinformation and the fear inspired by messages by some of our whānau to not get vaccinated. However, he also heard the message of the importance of protecting our whakapapa, and this resonated. As a tamaiti, he remembered speaking with elders who had in their youth not expected our people to survive in the new world which was quickly enveloping and excluding our people from our lands. There was a real fear that all that we were and all that we represented – our whakapapa – would be lost. To have this threatened by a virus, a foreign invader, was unacceptable for my kaumātua, and far worse than any threat shared in conspiracy and misinformation. The loss of whānau due to Covid, the threat to our mokopuna, was more than enough for my elder. Ngāti Whatua Orakei as a people have endured and lost far too much to be cowed by an invisible virus.
I have done my part and had two shots – have you whānau?
Last week, on September 18, we marked the 181st year since my ancestor Te Kawau gathered with his kin and various Crown officials at the majestic headland pā, Te Rerenga Ora Iti which overlooked the central Waitematā near present day Britomart. At this meeting my tupuna gifted lands to encourage the newcomers to set up communities to trade and work alongside in co-operation with our people.
There was a desire for reciprocity that benefited all.
My tupuna could not have anticipated the devastating consequences that would follow and would ultimately leave our people virtually landless and existing on the very margins of the city that quickly consumed all our lands and way of life.
It is a significant milestone for all of us in this city and region which so many more now call home. However, on this anniversary in 2021, we must come together to resist a shared enemy, and that is Covid-19. Let us do all we can to ensure it no longer continues to disrupt and cause fear to the many who now call Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa home.
Marama Royal is chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust