18 Jun 2020

Iwi leaders take aim at government's border control systems

4:10 pm on 18 June 2020

Three iwi leaders who helped coordinate iwi checkpoints during lockdown have called the government's border control systems "outrageous" and a "failure", and are demanding assurances it won't happen again.

Iwi checkpoints were operating in the Far North on the night before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

An iwi checkpoint operating in the Far North on the night before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Talei Anderson

The government has come under fire after two women who arrived in New Zealand from overseas were allowed to leave isolation without being tested for Covid-19, and were confirmed to have the virus.

Te Tai Tokerau checkpoint spokesperson Hone Harawira signalled iwi checkpoints could be re-established if flaws in the system persisted.

"We closed our iwi checkpoints based on assurances given by the government and yet we are now seeing weak border controls and an incompetent quarantine system," he said.

"We are seeking confidence as iwi that there is now a robust system in place to protect our regions and Aotearoa from a new wave of infections, so that we don't have to again use our strained resources to set up checkpoints."

Te Whanau-a-Apanui checkpoint spokesperson Rawiri Waititi, who is also standing in the Waiariki electorate for the Maori Party in this year's election, said it was unacceptable the Ministry of Health (MOH) was not routinely testing new arrivals to the country.

"The MOH has revealed that new arrivals are not being routinely tested, despite that being their own policy this is outrageous and points to wider systemic failures.

"These unfortunate events could lead to a real erosion of public trust in the government's pandemic response, which would make things even worse. They need to front up and give us the confidence that they are taking border controls as seriously as we in iwi have been."

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