'We failed our Māori community' - BOP DHB apologises for Covid artwork

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board has “unreservedly” apologised after printing a Covid-19 vaccination booklet that depicted a mataora, as a virus, being kicked.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Te Rūnanga Hauora Māori o Te Moana a Toi apologised for the artwork.

The pamphlet was approved for distribution, and then promptly recalled and destroyed following swift feedback.

The brochures showed a green virus cartoon which has a face and moko - Māori tattooing designs on the face or body done under traditional protocols - being kicked by a man in gumboots and stomped on by someone wearing PPE.

In a statement the DHB says it was advised of the material and immediately “instructed the CEO to withdraw the collateral”.

Chair Sharon Shea says when she saw the design last night she was offended by it.

"It was wrong. 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," she said.

"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."

“I have asked the chief executive to initiate a review immediately, and to ensure we have the appropriate protocols and a robust approval processes in place.

The imagery was accompanied by information about the Covid-19 vaccine.

“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,” she said.

Labour MP Tāmati Coffey slammed the design on Facebook yesterday, saying it was "wrong on so many levels".

"Don’t use the mataora on your Covid virus. Sends weird signals. And could be seen as racist," he wrote. 

"Don’t kick or stand on anything with a mataora. It is a tapu practice that demands more respect."

Coffey said he raised the issue and the artwork was taken down immediately.

Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says there needs to an investigation.

“As a person with a mataora, I think the use of it on a virus is completely inappropriate.

“A mataora is symbolic of life – tikanga, whakapapa, where you come from, and especially your tīpuna.

“They are about peace, contribution, oranga and the revitalisation of our culture,” he said.

He says the fact the sacredness of mataora is being associated with a deadly virus, is “an absolute disgrace”.

He’s requested a hui with the DHB to understand how this happened.

This morning, Toi Te Ora Public Health clinical lead Dr Phil Shoemack told 1 NEWS he was "disappointed and dismayed that this booklet has 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," he said.