Ardern ditches Wellington on jab mission

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Jacinda Ardern has left Wellington for the first time during New Zealand's Delta outbreak, heading to poorly vaccinated communities to up jab rates.

Ms Ardern flipped sausages and spoke with health care workers on Thursday after heading north to Rotorua - the first stop on a three-day tour of the North Island's East.

Flanked by Maori MPs, the prime minister is hoping to up vaccination rates among Maori, which trail other demographics.

While 80 per cent of all New Zealanders have had their first dose, only 57 per cent of Maori have done similarly.

The bottom three regions for Maori vaccinations are Northland, Rotorua and Tairawhiti: Ms Ardern is visiting the latter two on her travels.

Her first stop was to an internationally known whakairo (carving) artist known as Brox, who boasts 1.4 million followers on streaming platform Twitch.

"Just call me Aunty," Ms Ardern said as she visited Brox's backyard during a livestream.

"I'm travelling around and talking to be people about vaccinations."

"I haven't been vaccinated yet," he told her, "I was going to get it last week but I got my tattoo instead. I'm doing it this week" - to Ms Ardern's approval.

"There may not be a lot of information out there," Brox said.

"There's a lot in the tinfoil hat community ... I was one of them. I was scared at first. But my main driver is my kids."

"Absolutely," Ms Ardern agreed, "In this outbreak we've seen lots of babies, kids who have got it ... you can have a big influence in so many ways."

Down the road in Murupara, just 32 per cent of locals are vaccinated.

The Labour leader turned sausages at a barbecue designed to attract locals for jabs, encountered hecklers who said "we don't need your demon vaccine", according to Stuff.

Ms Ardern will also head to Wairoa, Flaxmere, Hastings, Gisborne, and Ruatoria on her self-described "roadie".

The trip was a last minute decision, and not publicly advised until Maori Health Minister Peeni Henare let slip the trip in an interview with The AM Show.

The government has been criticised by health professionals and COVID-19 modellers for its decision to pivot from its elimination strategy while Maori vaccination rates lag the rest of the population.

Mr Henare previously said he would have "reservations" about relaxing restrictions until Maori jab rates had risen, but on Thursday said the government's Maori MPs were on board the decision.

"Most definitely we're being heard," he said.

The Delta outbreak is disproportionately hitting Maori and Pacific Island peoples.

While they comprise roughly a fifth of New Zealanders, they make up 80 per cent of the 1448 infected over the last eight weeks.

Ms Ardern usually resides in Auckland and left New Zealand's biggest city to hunker down in Wellington when the outbreak was uncovered on August 17.

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