Covid 19 coronavirus: Health bosses give unreserved apology, offending vaccine leaflet to be destroyed

A leaflet at the centre of a racist outcry will be destroyed, with health bosses apologising and promising it will never be used again.

The joint chairs of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Te Runanga Hauora Maori o te Moana a Toi have today issued an unreserved apology to local Māori, iwi and hapū partners, and whānau, for the use of an inappropriate design on Covid-19 marketing material.

Runanga chair Linda Steel said iwi from Mai I Ngā Kuri a Whaarei ki Tihirau were “beyond offended” that the most sacred part of the tinana (body) had been depicted in this manner.

The publicity material, “Let’s Give Covid-19 The Boot” issued by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and its public health arm, Toi Te Ora Tauranga, provides information about the Pfizer vaccination with the Covid-19 virus portrayed as Māori.

The front cover shows a farmer in Red Bands kicking a virus with mataora, while another shows a health worker standing on the head puncturing the virus with a taiaha.

It drew harsh condemnation for its cultural insensitivity and racism from the Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon and Rotorua-based MP Tamati Coffey.

Today the health board boss revealed a local Māori artist designed the imagery, including input from Māori marketing specialists and local iwi.

But Sharon Shea said the process was not as robust as needed.

“I saw the design last night. I was offended by it. It was wrong,” said Shea.

“Since last night, I have been informed it was designed by a Māori artist, and had input from Māori marketing specialists and it had gone through an approval process, including consultation with some local iwi.

“However, it is clear that the process was not as robust as needed, and this design has caused offence. On this occasion, we have failed our Māori community, and we apologise. It’s not good enough.”

She said the chief executive had been asked to initiate an immediate review to
ensure there were appropriate protocols and robust approval processes in place.

“We are working with our Te Tiriti governance partner, Te Rūnanga Hauora Māori o Te Moana a Toi, and this is a matter of urgency.

“Our Māori community are some of those most at risk from Covid-19, and this issue is an unwanted distraction from our important job of delivering as many vaccines as possible to our valued kaumatua, kuia, pakeke and whānau. We are absolutely committed to an equitable approach to the vaccine rollout, and providing our whānau with the opportunity to access the vaccine.”

Te Runanga Hauora Māori o te Moana a Toi chair Linda Steel said the runanga fully backed the actions of the district health board bosses in removing the offensive material and the urgent review of the process.

“Te Runanga Hauora Māori o te Moana a Toi which consists of 17 iwi from Mai I Ngā Kuri a Whaarei ki Tihirau are beyond offended that the most sacred part of our tinana has been depicted in this manner and unreservedly apologise to all our whānau, hapū, iwi and hāpori communities.”

Earlier Toi Te Ora Public Health clinical lead Dr Phil Shoemack said he was disappointed and dismayed that the booklet had been published.

“Toi Te Ora Public Health was not involved with the development of the booklet and our logo was used without our knowledge or permission, and with no approval from us. We would never support material with imagery such as this.”

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