National | Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Māori Party year in review - 'Māori still at the bottom of the cliff'

They're the smallest political party in Parliament but, what they lack in numbers, they make up in noise both in and out of the House. Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rāwiri Waititi and Debbie Ngārewa Packer sat down with our political team to talk about 2021.

Ngārewa Packer has spent a sizeable portion of her political year on the tools in Taranaki with an aim of getting the vaccination rates up. She says she's a service leader and when Covid hit the Taranaki region, she immediately wanted to go home and help.

“If you’re not getting vaccinated because you don’t have access, then we will use our influence in every sphere that we have to help break down those obstacles of access, and they were systemic racism."

“Nothing was learned from the 2020 Covid-19 response and it seems it doesn't matter how amazing Māori are, how innovative we are and how much we look after everyone. We will only be seen once we're at the bottom of the cliff pakaru,” she said.

Made an impact

And with low vaccination rates among Māori and now dominating the new daily infection cases, Waititi has some serious concerns about the regions.

"Kei te māharahara au mo tō tātou iwi Māori puta noa. Kei te tino māharahara au mo o tātou whanaunga o Te Tai Tokerau. Etahi o rātou kei raro i te toru tekau pai hēneti o te hunga kua āraitia. No reira kei te tino tautoko i a Hone."

“I’m worried for our Māori people across the country. I’m particularly worried about our relations in the north. Some of the areas up there are below 30% vaccinated. So I’m very supportive of Hone Harawira and his efforts.”

They have their sights set on the new year and say they’re confident that they’ve made an impact this year, and have garnered lots of support from people who Ngārewa Packer says are ready for change.

Waititi is looking forward to spending some time back in his electorate with whānau over  Christmas but will also be thinking about the whānau who will be self- isolating at home.

Ngārewa Packer will remain on call to support Taranaki efforts to vaccinate, and provide testing. But she also looks forward to getting back on her surfboard.

“I've got this great big awesome surfboard so, if anyone sees this older whaea with a moko kauae on this big board, get out of my way because I haven't surfed a lot this year, I'm unfit.”