Green Party sets out more equitable approach to COVID-19 response

The Green Party has warned that the Labour’s plan to move to a new COVID-19 response strategy will leave marginalised communities at risk.

Meanwhile, the Greens have a safer, more appropriate approach that won’t leave anyone behind.

“Many people around New Zealand looking at the Government’s plan today will be wondering what it means for their lives and livelihoods,” says Green spokesperson for the COVID-19 Response Julie Anne Genter.

“The Government is unfortunately planning to move to a new COVID-19 response strategy before New Zealand is ready. The proposed vaccination targets are insufficient to protect the most vulnerable, and risk opening up before everyone is safe on an equal basis.

“While we welcome today's announcement on hardship assistance, the government still needs to do more, especially for those not in work.

“There still isn’t enough support for helping low income households to meet their living costs, especially those dealing with high and increasing cost of rent and other living expenses.

“At the very least the Government needs to reintroduce the support that was put in place last year for low-income people, including rent freezes, better access for hardship grants for beneficiaries, and increases to benefits.

“Had the Government done this today it would have been able to say to all New Zealanders that they would be supported to stay healthy, provide for their families, and meet rising living costs.

“The Green Party has set out a proposed approach to a reopening that would be fairer for everyone.

“Our approach:

  • Supports the vaccination targets proposed by the National Iwi Chairs Forum;
  • Makes sure iwi, hapū, and local government are part of the decisions that get made about how to keep their communities safe;
  • Recommends that workplace safety plans are developed in partnership with unions; and
  • Ensures no one has to worry about putting food on the table, paying the rent, or keeping the house warm while we work to stop the spread of the virus,” Julie Anne Genter says.

Te Mātāwaka chair, and Green Party Health spokesperson, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere said the lack of a target for Māori and Pasifika vaccination rates in the Government’s plan will not guarantee these communities are protected equally across all age groups and regions.  

“The Government’s plan to open up after it achieves vaccination rates of 90% in each DHB ignores the different risks facing these communities.

“Māori and Pasifika are far more likely to have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk from COVID. They are also more likely to be living in communities where COVID spreads more easily, and working in high-risk jobs.

“The current COVID-19 outbreak is having a disproportionate impact on Māori and Pasifika communities, particularly in Auckland. While these communities have been leading the way to protect their whānau, hapū and iwi, Māori and Pasifika health providers do not have the resources they need to keep their communities safe.

“We welcome the additional funding to these communities as necessary to get the work done. However, Māori leadership is imperative to properly prepare for suppression and keep our whānau safe during this pandemic. We recognise the majority of Māori are not with Māori health providers and are instead with GP practices. To uphold tino rangatiratanga, GPs would work in partnership with Māori providers and local leaders to ensure our communities are being vaccinated.

“We want to see resources being distributed to sports teams, kapahaka leaders, Māori Wardens, Church leaders, as well as enabling people to hold wānanga and talanoa with vaccine hesitant whānau/aiga.

“Earlier this week, the Government warned Māori that COVID-19 is on the doorstep. Without sufficient supports in place, they will be opening the door. Our approach turns that door into a Tatau Pounamu – a greenstone door that creates peace and protection for those inside,” Dr Elizabeth Kerekere says.

The Green Party’s equitable COVID response approach.

Follow an elimination strategy at least until:

  • High vaccination coverage is achieved for all age groups, geographic areas, and population groups. This includes a rate of 95% of eligible Māori and Pasifika. It also requires a total population vaccination rate of at least 70% for all ethnic groups and geographical areas, as an additional threshold protection.
  • Contact tracing capacity is sufficient to trace the source of new cases that would arise if the rate of spread increases 

Put in place a comprehensive public health plan before any move to a suppression approach rather than an elimination approach:

This should include:

  • Ensuring sufficient ICU capacity to cope with additional need
  • Vaccinations are approved for children under-12
  • Booster shots are rolled out to immune compromised people and additional support is provided to enable shielding
  • Ventilation requirements are introduced for all workplaces

Put support measures in place to make sure people have what they need to provide for their families during lockdowns and to enable people to stay home and stop the spread.

This should include:

  • Immediate short term relief including a rent freeze and more direct financial support for those on low incomes
  • Creating a new caregivers wage subsidy, so parents who need to take leave to look after their children and support their wellbeing during Alert Levels 3 and 4 are able to do so
  • Ensuring the wage subsidy is sufficient and is given to workers

Reform the tax system to increasing revenue from millionaires so that we can support those who need it most.

Ensure appropriate decision-making when New Zealand transitions away from elimination, recognising the need to involve people directly affected.

This should include:

  • A formal process for iwi involvement in decisions on the government’s overall COVID-19 strategy, and any change in approach
  • Working with unions to develop a Safe at Work Plan for managing low numbers of cases in the community on an ongoing basis
  • Working with and empowering local government and mana whenua

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