The Māori Party has decried Aotearoa (New Zealand) setting a target to reopen borders while vaccination rates for Māori people continue to lag behind the general population.

Aotearoa will open its borders at 90 per cent vaccination.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi compared the policy to Netflix show “Squid Game”, in which deeply indebted people are coerced to risk their lives in a deadly competition for a large cash prize.

In Aotearoa, Māori people are vaccinated at a lower rate than the general population.

Currently, 71.9 per cent of Māori have received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, compared to 88.4 per cent of Pākehā and 85.1 per cent of Pasifika people.

Waititi said the government was “willing to sacrifice” less vaccinated populations to open the borders.

“This government has a 90 per cent vaccination target. Māori have called for a 95 per cent of Māori vaccination target,” he tweeted.

“Who is the 10 per cent this government  is willing to sacrifice?”

“The PM says ‘no one will be left behind’. What she means is no one will get left behind except Māori! Let the Squid Games begin,” he said.

Auckland University lecturer in Māori health, Rhys Jones, told Bloomberg that it would be unethical to ease restrictions while Māori vaccination rates are still “dangerously low”.

“If you don’t have that specific target for Māori you could end up opening up and exposing Māori people, significant numbers of whom may be unvaccinated, to a very, very serious outbreak and that could have terrible consequences,” he said.

This comes as Aotearoa’s Māori health provider will be able to offer vaccinations directly to unvaccinated Māori people after a legal victory against the Government granted it new access to Māori vaccination data.

Vaccination rate comparison. Information Supplied NZ Ministry of Health.

Aotearoa’s High Court has ruled that the Ministry of Health must pass Māori vaccination data to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, which operates 81 general practise clinics and more than 200 vaccination sites across the North Island.

In a video discussion the judgment on social media, Whānau Ora chief executive John Tamihere said the decision gives the agency the ability to specifically invite for an appointment Māori people who have not received a vaccine.

“Knowledge is power and it’s time that data sovereignty is placed back into our own hands over our own data,” Tamihere said.

“When we knew by September that… we would be in the back of the queue, we started to demand the right to access to our own information so we could on-board our people by invitation instead of appointment, that was rejected time and again.”

Prior to the High Court’s decision, the Ministry of Health had agreed to share anonymised data about unvaccinated Māori but declined to share individual data about Māori who had not had contact with Whānau Ora services.

The High Court decision gave the Ministry of Health 72 hours to provide the information to the Whānau Ora.

High Court Justice Cheryl Gwen found that the Ministry’s decision to withhold the information did not pay adequate regard to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), New Zealand’s treaty with the Māori people.

By Sarah Smit