National | Tangihanga

Māori have proved their ability in COVID-19 crisis - Dame Tariana

Dame Tariana Turia is calling on Māori to hold the Government to account for its decisions.

She adds Māori proved their ability to take charge of their future during the COVID-19 crisis and should be part of any decisions that concern them.

"I get very annoyed when people think they can make critical decisions for us, about us.

"They didn't stop to think was that nobody in their right mind wanted to see the spread of COVID but they never gave us the opportunity to think how we might be able to maintain tikanga, but address the issues that would be there of concern," she says.

As a tikanga tuku iho, tangihanga always takes precedence in te ao Māori.

The Government’s decision to ban tangihanga protocols without any proper or thorough consultation with Māori has left many whānau and iwi in disarray.

Dame Tariana says, "I’m sure that we could have found our way through it.

"We could have acknowledged that there were particular things that we might not do to deny us the right to make those decisions ourselves."

Turia says that the Government lacks trust in Māori to do the right thing.

"Trust us to do what we know to be right and I think that's what annoys me more than everything is the fact we don't get trusted," she says. "But we've watched people who have taken up the responsibility of the State to continue to feed and take care of families who were in dire straits."

Turia's former colleague Te Ururoa Flavell recognises the overwhelming efforts of Māori, in particular, at times when Māori culture was initiated.

"We have become accustomed to these sorts of emergency situations. During the earthquakes in Christchurch and in Kaikoura Māori mobilised themselves and got to work, whether it was Ngāi Tahu, the Māori Wardens or Te Puni Kōkiri, our people were ready to serve as a backbone for the whole of the country," explains Flavell.

"To deny us the right to make those decisions ourselves I think is appalling," exclaims Dame Tariana.

She urges Māori to remain vigilant and keep fighting for our rights even through the toughest of times.