COVID-19: Alliance of iwi and Māori representatives rejects Govt's proposed traffic light system

An alliance of iwi and Māori representatives says there are some "very serious issues" with the Government's plans for a traffic light COVID-19 system and they have rejected the proposal.

The Government has been preparing the revamped alert level system for life after lockdown.

Newshub understands Green Light or "Prepare" will be a lot like level 1 with no masks required. It would be used when there's isolated local transmission.

The Orange Light or "Reduce" has light restrictions and gets triggered if there are limited active clusters in more than one area. 

Red light or "Restrict" would see limited gatherings, potential inter-regional travel restrictions and hospitality businesses would only be open to vaccinated people who'd be separated inside.

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB more details are expected to be announced during Monday's 4pm COVID-19 alert level update.

However, not everyone agrees with the proposed new system.

"You would definitely not want to remove alert levels 3 and 4 as they are now," Otago University Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist, told Newshub. 

Now an alliance of iwi/Māori representatives including representatives from urban and rural Māori, as well as rangatahi, hapū and iwi, health professionals, corporate organisations and respected legacy group Te Rōpū Wahine Māori Toko I Te Ora (Māori Women's Welfare League) and the NZ Māori Council have discussed the framework.

"After forming a position on the Government's Traffic Light model, a strong joint statement was presented to the Crown last night to make it absolutely clear that we reject the Traffic Light Framework," said Mike Smith, co-chair of the Pandemic Response Group, representing the National Iwi Chairs.

"We fully understand the need to urgently develop systems to manage COVID within communities, however serious equity issues have yet to be resolved - such as community capacity to manage isolation; hospital capacity to manage extreme cases and care; wrap around care; welfare support and resourcing."

He said there were some "very serious issues" with the revised framework for the traffic light system which were substantial enough that they wanted to seek further information from the Crown.

Co-chair Lisa Tumahai said Māori and Pacific vaccination rates have to increase to the same level as other New Zealanders otherwise the infection and mortality rate will disproportionately affect New Zealand's vulnerable communities.

"Our focus is now giving priority to keeping our communities safe.  We will be developing our plan of action ensuring it provides our whanau, our communities and they will be localised.  While the intention is to give priority to our whanau, all plans will be for all in our communities'."

Tumahai said the alliance plans to meet in the coming weeks to design a road map, "identifying the likely scenarios needed to respond and we will invite the government to work with us to enable the best outcome for our people".