Waatea News Column: Pandemic will hit Māori hardest


I’m glad the Government have rolled out a $12 billion package in response to the pandemic currently sweeping the world.

It is a strong package that boosts health care ability, puts money into beneficiary pockets, props up business and extends heating subsidies.

It’s a great first step, but when we consider the possible damage a pandemic will cause in NZ, it feels lacking.

Māori are prone to respiratory disease at far higher levels than Pākehā, this pandemic will hit them hardest as it also targets people with chronic illness, which Māori again are over-represented in.

The plans for prisons, which are overwhelmingly made up of Māori, are to simply lock the doors and allow the pandemic to sweep through once services are overwhelmed and the communal living culture of Māori are simply not possible at a time of social distancing.

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The enormity of what will hit if this disease gets into New Zealand is still being underestimated and that is especially true of how it will impact Māori.

NZ has a terrible history of virus incompetence from the infection of Samoa at the end of World War 1 to the recent measles epidemic, and it’s always the poorest amongst us who pay the highest price.

We need far more support and information out to Community leaders with clear guidance of what to do when the pandemic sweeps through so that the shock of mass sickness doesn’t stun us into non-action.

We must appreciate this is a once in a generation event and start taking it seriously, we can not afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. Totally agree. A pandemic is defiantly going to wipe out Maori more due to the above reasons. They should go to the Marae and shut the door with a containment zone for new comers – I’m serious… grow own food, (well there is nothing left in supermarkets to buy, last time I went major staples were gone like rice, pasta, flour, beans). Disease is a huge killer. Look what has happened in Italy.

    • With what has happened to Maori in rural areas over the last 30 years, many of the marae gardens have gone.

  2. Very good message Martyn. Repeat often loud and wide. People are not taking this seriously, but are scared?
    Just like Climate Change. My own family is in this category. I guess many will only realize or understand when the shit actually hits the fan for them personally, probably not much before. Business leaders and Civic leaders need to get serious with hygiene and social distancing, like yesterday! They control mass people and organize work groups/tasks. I personally know how bloody hopeless they can be doing their jobs so we might need to prod them with a sharp stick to get things moving.

  3. Factors promoting viral spread

    > Population density
    > Overcrowding (as opposed to just being in a city)
    > Sanitation standard
    > Culture of hygiene/education
    > Control by authorities
    > Ill health/poor nutrition

    Population density
    The cities will be worse off because social distancing is more difficult, apartment dwellers are more reliant on restaurants and there are more contact points – like elevator buttons, door push plates, handrails etc

    Cities where there are a lot of illegal immigrants who are sharing rooms. Sweat shop labourers who even ‘hot bed’. Non European cultures with large families like pacific islanders etc who will happily produce six kids in a one room shack

    Sharing facilities. Toilets showers, baths etc

    Culture of hygiene/education
    The measures implemented by the authorities make sense to us but in places with widespread illiteracy or religious beliefs they’re not going to do the right thing. For example, Indians are now drinking cow urine as a cure. Yeah that’ll work!

    Control by authorities
    This is where a command culture has its advantage. They can tell people what to do and the general population is disciplined enough to do as they’re told. There are zero infections in Singapore because the authorities issued guidelines and as a nation they all followed the rules to the letter. Whereas in the UK they are widely flouting the rules because of their individualistic nature.

    I’ll health/poor nutrition
    I’ve world in various 3rd world countries in my time and Indonesia was the worst for this. Most men smoke. They are undernourished and have a poor diet of white rice three times a day. No dairy. Little meat. They are physically small people as a result. They will be hammered.
    At the other end there are those nations with endemic obesity problems. Weak hearts make for poor disease resistance…so watch out America!

    Medical facilities


    So who will be impacted the most?

    SE Asia ticks all the boxes. Indonesia and the Philippines are worst. Massive overcrowding, illiteracy, poor sanitation and most smoke. Mostly only ill equipped, bare foot medical practitioners. Same goes for the South American favelas: I don’t know that part of the world but it seems to have half the population living in informal slums. Ditto parts of Africa.

    European and American cities full of unruly ethnics and over-privileged white folk who think the rules don’t apply to them.

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