‘The gap remains’: commissioning agency Whānau Ora returns to High Court

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Whānau Ora’s commissioning agency was back at Wellington’s High Court to fight for access to data for all unvaccinated Maori in Te Ika on Maui – saying it was urgent or urgent to obtain the information needed to increase vaccination rates before the Auckland borders open.

John Tamihere, General Manager of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency
Photo: Stuff / Jason Dorday

The agency first sued the health ministry in late October for information on all unvaccinated Maori on the North Island.

During the judicial review, the judge asked the ministry to reconsider its refusal to disclose the data taking into account its obligations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

But the health ministry refused to hand over the data citing confidentiality among their reasons.

In a letter after the initial decision, Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the ministry was of the opinion that if it released this expanse of data it would not be effective in other areas. due to variations in WOCA coverage. He also said he had had discussions with other Maori and Iwi leaders about the decision. He said he wanted to work with the agency and other Maori to find a solution.

Since then, the ministry has released some data on unvaccinated Maori in Waikato and Auckland.

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But that would not be enough, and the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has filed new legal documents for the individual data of each unvaccinated Maori person to better target vaccination efforts.

Only 66 percent of Maori are currently fully immunized.

At the High Court hearing today, lawyers for the agency explained that time is running out for Maori vaccination rates to reach 90% before Auckland’s borders open.

“Whānau Ora would need at least seven weeks for the information to be used in a way that allows people to be fully immunized by December 15.

For them to be fully vaccinated, the deadline to receive their second dose would be December 1, “which would take us back to November 10 as when they should have received their first dose,” the lawyers said.

“This is why the applicant [the agency] has been asking since the end of August and continues to do so today.

“In a world where we are not limited in time, we could wait and see what decisions will be made, but we do not have the luxury of time in this case.”

The equity gap between Maori and non-Maori is not narrowing, the lawyers said.

“On December 15th, there will be a lower percentage of Maori vaccinated than non-Maori vaccinated.

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“It really underlies everything … that gap remains and that’s the big problem.”

The court heard that if the ministry needed more time, it could have come back to court and said it needed to consult and say there were other steps needed before making a final decision.

“This problem could have been ventilated before moving forward. It would have been much more appropriate for them to do so.”

“With each passing day it becomes more urgent, the window getting smaller before the Auckland borders open.”

They explained how some iwi objected to information disclosure, but it is something they have the right to do and if iwi or individuals want to be excluded from the data, they can ask the ministry not to. not share them with Whānau Ora.

Some iwi members live outside their rohe and it becomes a “live” question as to whether it would be appropriate to remove these people from the data.

Also, many people turn to multiple iwi, some iwi might say yes to sharing information, but another might say no. “So that will mean it might get a little confusing. “

The issue of data sovereignty was raised, but claimants argued that this was a larger issue to consider rather than in this case.

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They calculated that it would take six weeks and four days to reach 90 percent of second doses for Maori.

They reminded the court of the growing impact of the Delta epidemic on Maori, with five Maori deaths and 2,031 Maori cases.

Crown attorneys say there has been hui with iwi around the North Island and some have made it clear they don’t want the data shared, but others say they don’t mind .

“Some iwi have suggested that the data be passed to the iwi first and then be shared,” the crown attorneys said.

They reiterated that this is not an “one or the other” situation and that they will share some information.

They informed the court that a decision was made today to share data on Maori who have required their second dose for eight weeks or more.

Crown counsel acknowledged that this situation revealed complex and deep data issues.

They said day in and day out the agency had access to what they initially requested.

Judge Gwyn has reserved her judgment and will send it to the parties as soon as possible.

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