Coronavirus: Māori King places rāhui on Waikato and Waipā Rivers amid COVID-19

Kiingi Tūheitia announced the rāhui during his weekly speech on Sunday.
Kiingi Tūheitia announced the rāhui during his weekly speech on Sunday. Photo credit: Supplied

As the country continues to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, the Māori King has placed a rāhui on Waikato and Waipā Rivers to allow the waterways to rejuvenate during "these trying times".

Kiingi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII announced the rāhui during his weekly speech on Sunday. 

"For many people here in Waikato, our rivers and waterways are a source of spiritual uplifting," Kiingi Tūheitia said.

"During these trying times I am placing a rāhui on the Waikato, Waipā Rivers and our waterways so they can rejuvenate and remain a source of inspiration for your collective wairua.

"I ask all marae and Kaumātua near our rivers to please enact this rāhui."

The rāhui means that no recreational activity - including swimming and other water sports - can take place on the waterways.

It will stay in effect until lifted by Kiingi Tūheitia.

In his address, the Māori King also spoke about other aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, urging people "not to become complacent" as the number of COVID-19 cases dropped in the country.

"As more whānau return to work and some tamariki begin returning to school we need to continue to be on our high alert. Do not become complacent, COVID-19 has not left our shores therefore we must be vigilant no matter what level we are at," he said.

"Continue to be the best you can be. Stay home as much as you can, protect your bubble, wash your hands regularly and always be kind."

Kiingi Tūheitia's message came after a study earlier this month showed that Māori were around twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than Pākehā.

The research by Te Pūnaha Matatini estimated that if age is the dominant factor determining the infection fatality rate (IFR), then Māori are around 1.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Māori. Meanwhile, if underlying health conditions are the dominant factor, the IFR for Māori rises to more than 2.5 times that of Pākehā.

As well as citing underlying health conditions, the researchers blamed socioeconomic disadvantage and structural racism for the greater risk facing Māori. 

The Pasifika community also faced a higher infection fatality rate than Pākehā, the research found.

In March the Government announced a $56 million package to give support Māori through the COVID-19 pandemic.