COVID-19: Māori Council leader Matthew Tukaki calls on National MP Harete Hipango to resign after attending anti-vaccine mandate and lockdown protest

National MP Harete Hipango and Matthew Tukaki
National MP Harete Hipango and Matthew Tukaki Photo credit: Facebook/AM Show

Matthew Tukaki is calling on National backbencher MP Harete Hipango to resign after attending another COVID-19 anti-vaccine mandate and lockdown protest. 

Hipango posted photos of herself smiling in front of the vaccine protest group Voices for Freedom in Whanganui on Saturday as they held signs like "truth will prevail".

Accompanying the post, she wrote about freedom and choice and said people were being branded as hate speakers, misinformers and anti-vaxxers for their views.

She took the post down following a discussion with National Party leader Christopher Luxon who said the group's beliefs "do not align with those of the National Party".

Hipango claimed it was "never my intention" to "convey an anti-vaccination message".

Now the chair of the National Māori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, is slamming Hipango and calling on Luxon to sort the MP out. 

"Let's face it the errant National MP has had multiple opportunities yet she sneaks away to this protest and that knowing full well her presence gives license to those behind them - often peddling misinformation and lies," Tukaki says in a statement.

"It's not the first time she been caught out and it's a little late deleting the old Facebook posts - it's like that age-old truism of act first and ask permission later - in this case the question is what else has she been supporting.

"And if she doesn't like it - then leave the adulting to others and bring back people like Jo Hayes who worked damn hard to advocate for Māori."

It's the second time Hipango has been spotted attending a COVID-19 protest.

She was seen at a heated anti-vaxx demonstration in November that forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to cancel a visit to a vaccination clinic. In that instance, Hipango claimed she thought it was a protest about something else.

Tukaki is calling on other political parties to support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children under the age of 12, which starts on January 17. 

"The main aim in town must be to get the campaigns underway for childhood vaccinations," he says.

"We have seen the impact of the virus on children in Europe and the USA, we are seeing the unfolding mess that is Australia so acting now will be imperative - and that includes being blunt about some of the messaging - for example; it is a lie that vaccinations for children are being mandated. They are not."

Tukaki also criticises anti-vaxxers who have threatened to attack vaccination centres, calling them "irresponsible idiots".

"The second message needs to be one of the right information - of the vaccination and its health or otherwise impacts on children and so on," Tukaki says.

"Informed parents create informed consent and that is what we need to aim for.

"To all of those irresponsible idiots out there who are saying they are going to attack vaccination centres - exactly where will you be if New Zealand children start losing their lives? I bet your bottom dollar they will move on to the next campaign slogan. Campaign slogans do not save lives - action does."

Tukaki also has a message for those targeting retail and hospitality staff and those small businesses openly flouting the rules.

"Grow up and stop acting as if you are some sort of hero," he says.

"You're not heroes. People on our front lines including hospitality and retail, our health workforce and emergency services are the heroes. They have kept Aotearoa ticking. And for those in Te Ao Māori still spreading misinformation - cut it out."