The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has been described, perhaps accurately, as a one-in-one-hundred-years event, but during its history New Zealand has a number of “scares” and lockdowns because of infectious diseases that have had detrimental impacts on Māori. In 2020, the memory of these epidemics has led some Māori communities to attempt to keep the coronavirus away from their own communities.
Historically, Pākehā were more concerned that Māori would spread disease to them. Māori were sometimes seen by Pākehā as a weak link in New Zealand’s chain of health defences, with poor, overcrowded and unsanitary housing and customs that could potentially spread disease. Māori, often due to poverty or lack of access, were also less likely to seek medical treatment, and epidemics could hit their communities hard.