Supermarket vouchers, iPads, food trucks, concert tickets – whatever the incentive, Māori health providers have got the backing of the Government to be innovative when it comes to vaccinating rangatahi

In an interview with Newsroom on Wednesday the associate minister of Māori health, Peeni Henare, said he was all ears to innovative ideas for how to encourage young Māori to get vaccinated now they’re eligible under the rollout.

National leader Judith Collins and ACT Party leader David Seymour both threw their public support behind Henare on Thursday to do whatever it takes to vaccinate as many young people as possible.

While the Prime Minister wouldn’t comment on individual incentives being proposed, and in some cases already offered, she told Newsroom Māori health providers know their communities best.

“We want to see innovation in our vaccine rollout and people not feeling constrained, and if they believe they’ve identified initiatives, that they can do that,’’ she said.

Henare confirmed to Newsroom there was leftover funding from the $40 million set aside by the Government earlier this year to promote and execute the rollout for Māori.

“I understand there’s still some resource there and we’re looking at how we might support more specific and bespoke incentives to bring young people and the Māori population forward.’’

Northland providers are already offering up incentives.

The Ngāti Hine Trust has daily supermarket vouchers and a weekly iPad draw for those getting vaccinated in Moerewa, while several kura kaupapa joining the rollout are also planning to offer incentives.

Ardern said she’d spoken to one provider in the North Island running a mobile clinic that had talked about setting up food trucks to “make an event out of getting vaccinated’’.

Seymour told Newsroom he’d like to see incentives being used across the board.

“Ultimately, the incentive is this, New Zealand must be clear that we are going to shift strategy once everyone’s had the opportunity to be vaccinated.’’

But Seymour acknowledged communities and local providers knew better than bureaucrats.

“We’ve long supported devolution. If communities know what their needs are better than government departments, and they can do a better job, then it’s money well spent,’’ he said.

Collins told Newsroom she’d back whatever worked to get the vaccination rate up.

“My view is you get the job done, and that job has to be getting as many people as possible vaccinated.

“I have a huge amount of sympathy for Peeni’s view, which is that a lot of young people, whether they’re Māori or not, have unfortunately got this message through social media that somehow there’s a problem with the vaccine or getting vaccinated,’’ she said.

The National Party has a history of supporting targeted Māori initiatives, like Whānau Ora, and this was no different, Collins said.

“It’s very targeted but is also open to people who aren’t Māori.’’

On Thursday, Henare, who is also Minister for Whānau Ora, announced a $24 million boost to the Māori health provider to help with Covid-19 support.

The three commissioning agencies will receive an immediate boost of $8.8m to provide direct support to whānau in hard-to-reach communities, with “complex and overlapping needs’’.

The funding also includes $14m to help providers setting up vaccinations, testing and self-isolating spaces.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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