Iwi-led Covid-19 responses are being praised for saving lives, following new research showing Māori are 50 per cent more likely to die from the virus than non-Māori.
The findings of the study were published todayin the New Zealand Medical Journal; incorporating underlying health problems such as cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, as well as age and access to healthcare in the disease modelling.
Researchers from Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Canterbury, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, University of Auckland and the University of Waikato said their estimates were conservative, and mortality rates could be higher.
"These will be exacerbated by racism within the healthcare system," they wrote.
Taupua Waiora Māori Research Centre's Professor Denise Wilson said the study "confirms existing Māori concerns about Covid-19 getting into our communities".
These concerns prompted proactive iwi-based support as lockdown began.
"Māori iwi, hapū, whānau and communities mobilised across Aotearoa to respond to whānau needs, deliver care packages, and have worked with police to monitor movement in and out of their rohe," Wilson said.
Forty-two per cent of Rotorua's population is of Māori descent and a Te Arawa Covid-19 hub has provided support to thousands of household bubbles.
Phyllis Tangitu, who has acted as a liaison between the Lakes District Health Board and the hub, said the Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa responses were a "phenomenal" example of iwi members protecting each other.
She said it only took them 12 hours to mobilise and reorganise teams, identify their most vulnerable and start providing them support.
"It comprised marae, land trusts, primary health care providers ... They were prepared to stand up and say, 'What can we do, how can we do it?'"
Piki Thomas established the Te Tokotoru o Manawakotokoto Response group to support Ngāti Pikiao members and later led 80 volunteers to package more than 19,000 Whānau Ora Hygiene Packs for whānau across the Waiariki region.
He said this was "a team collective effort" that was just one arm of the Te Arawa Covid-19 Hub.
"We listened to what our kaumātua said and the thing they were most concerned about was isolation," he said.
"We had a network of people who were connected around the lake and in town, the elderly and the young ... And we had a plan for the food, the firewood, the medical supplies and information."
Volunteers took photos of those they visited and sent them to whānau overseas to ensure they knew their vulnerable relatives were being cared for.
"It was awesome ... they were just blown away."
Ngāti Te Ngakau and Ngāti Tura volunteer Ana Marie Whata "didn't know how to keep still" when lockdown began, so was happy to "give back".
Her role involved ringing around elders initially - "being a nuisance" - to check on them and organise help where needed.
"If I knew some were alone, I was visiting them, keeping my distance, but giving them a hand clearing the yard, putting out the rubbish bins or making sure they had kai in the cupboard ... They really appreciated that someone was looking out for them, the communication, the manaakitanga."
Other jobs involved dropping off supermarket vouchers to families having financial difficulties.
Whata was "stoked" to see iwi members avoid infection and said those who had helped organise the Te Arawa Covid-19 response, such as Whānau Ora, had done an "overwhelming" job.