At the end of 2021, the Waitangi Tribunal held a priority hearing into the Crown’s COVID-19 pandemic response. This hearing formed part of the wider Hauora (Health) inquiry.

The hearing focused on the vaccine roll out and the shift to the new ‘Traffic Light System’. These issues were considered in light of vaccination rates and COVID-19 cases in Maori communities and the experience of Maori health providers throughout the pandemic.

The Tribunal found that the Crown’s response was in breach of multiple principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Notably, it found that the early transition to the Traffic Light System put Māori at disproportionate risk of Delta infection when compared with other population groups, in breach of Te Tiriti. The Crown’s failure to jointly design the vaccine sequencing framework with Maori was also found to be in breach of Te Tiriti.

Several key recommendations were made in the report including that the Crown:

  •           Urgently provide further funding, resources, and data to Maori providers and communities.
  •           Partner with Maori to design and implement an equitable pediatric and booster vaccine sequencing framework                  for Maori.

The next stage of the Hauora inquiry is due to be heard in 2022. Stage two will focus on tangata whaikaha (Maori with lived experience of disability).