28 Apr 2020

Most travellers through iwi checkpoints flouting level 3 rules

From Checkpoint, 6:15 pm on 28 April 2020

A South Taranaki iwi says 70 percent of the people it stopped at a checkpoint near the small town of Patea were flouting the rules under alert level 3 and that is why some communities needs to take things into their own hands.

A number of towns around Aotearoa have set up checkpoints screening people coming in and out, in a bid to keep Covid-19 at bay.

Debbie Ngarewa Packer of Ngāti Ruanui told Checkpoint of the 40 people who passed through today, just 12 had a valid reason.

The checkpoints are not roadblocks, Ngarewa-Packer explained. "What we have is kind of a traffic management plan. We have people that are guiding the traffic, they come up to a group of us that are waiting, set up in a group of two. 

"One holds a brochure which is about level 3 and where testing clinics are. The other is quickly saying: 'Are you aware of level 3, are you travelling within the requirements of level 3, where do you come from and where are you going?' Then for the the locals we've got a little a little card… so they don't need to be questioned numerous times. 

"We've had some that are very emotional, they've had to leave their bubble. They've had relationship issues and things going on. So we've been able to connect them with some social services," she said. 

"We had one girl, who stood out to me all day, that had a dog. She had her car full of her belongings. She had travelled up from Wellington and had located a bubble that she could move to. 

"It was really obvious that she'd probably been crying the whole way. And as soon as we asked 'how are you' it just all came out.

"She was just devastated. Beautiful young girl, and I couldn't believe that she'd travelled all that way. She was in a bad space. 

"And we had a son that had lost his dad. We were the first people, in a physical form, he'd spoken to. So it's pretty rough. Some people have had to endure some pretty rough situations. 

"The flak is worth it. I'm glad we were able to be there to manaaki and to give some kindness," she told Checkpoint. 

How do the checkpoints work? 

"Our neighbouring iwi had put up the digital roadworks signs that say 'community checkpoint coming up'. There's three of those between us and Whanganui. 

"Then it comes into a 50km/h zone that has been taken down to 30km/h. [Drivers are guided] from the traffic management - that's anyone that's not a Fonterra truck, all the heavy traffic that's typical of essential services. It's more those if you've got a boat, a caravan, a Jucy campervan, if you have a jet ski, if you have a BMX bike - which is some of what we've had today.

"We've had a few international travellers that weren't aware of the full details of level 3, and thought they could go around and holiday again." 

Ngarewa-Packer said she has not had people angry about the checkpoints, but rather people have appreciated the support for the region, and their work helping those who have not understood the level 3 lockdown rules.  

"It all depends on the spirit and the intent of it. The spirit and intent is to work with everyone else. We're lucky we've got the police here.

"In the ideal world we wouldn't have to [have checkpoints], we would have other authorities step up. When we went to book traffic management crew - we're not actually manning the traffic management, that's professionals we've hired - we lost some of that because Council's priorities were to put traffic management into managing private businesses' queues like McDonald's and KFC. 

"It's not to be vigilante or to apply justice, no-one here is doing that."

Those who were found to be breaching level 3 lockdown rules at the checkpoint were referred to the police, Ngarewa-Packer said.