Northland doctor: 'This isn't lockdown, this is a joke'

1:55 pm on 2 April 2020

The government is confident police are well-resourced to crack down on people breaking the lockdown rules, but some communities say it's still not enough.

An East Coast group operating its own safety checkpoints is crying out for more support, and others further North say people still aren't getting the message to stay home.

Dr Lance O'Sullivan has posted a live video on social media, standing in the middle of the main street in Kaitaia.

Cars are parked-up on both sides of the road, and there's a steady stream of traffic.

"This is Kaitaia, main street. Population of about four to five thousand people and the number of cars here is ridiculous, there's far too many people on the road, far too many cars.

"This isn't lockdown, this is a joke."

Dr O'Sullivan said whatever the police were doing to manage the lockdown across the country, it wasn't not working where he was.

And he said the government must do more if it was serious about managing the community spread of Covid-19.

"What are we putting our lives on the line for, and getting everything ready for? We've been told the lockdown is such an important issue and no one's enforcing it.

"It's got to come from the top. It has to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand getting this feedback from the country that what she wants to happen and what is happening is different."

At the daily media conference earlier this afternoon, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said more police officers have been deployed to the Far North to make sure people are following the Covid-19 lockdown rules.

"I'm aware of some isolated incidents where people are not necessarily complying [to the lockdown], I refer for example to the commentary coming out of Kaitaia this morning from Dr Lance O'Sullivan.

"I can say that we have deployed more of our police staff up into that area to again engage, educate and encourage people to do the right thing, as the majority are doing, of course if that doesn't work there will be an enforcement follow up."

During her post-cabinet press conference yesterday, Jacinda Ardern said she was confident the police are enforcing the rules, and are well-resourced to continue doing so.

Indigenous Rights Activist Tina Ngata, who has set up community-led checkpoints on the East Coast, was not so sure.

She said police were not there to stop some people who were consistently breaking the rules.

"There are just one or two who are blatantly breaching the protocols, they're not practicing social distancing, they're not staying at home.

"There's one group that's been out everyday, sometimes three times a day, with four people in the car. People like that will be our weakest link and, unfortunately, it only takes one household to bring it into this community."

Six checkpoints are operating on the East Coast, with up to five volunteers at each one screening drivers and making sure people are following the rules.

Ngata said they needed more people on the ground to help, but the government had declined repeated requests for more support.

"We would love, even just one police officer per checkpoint ... then we wouldn't have to use so many volunteers.

"We shouldn't actually have to be out here doing this."

The Prime Minister said yesterday the police were doing what they could to help manage the East Coast checkpoints and hadn't needed to deploy more staff.

But Mike Smith from the iwi chairs forum said he understood why people in the community were reaching out for help.

"Where I'm situated at the moment in Evans Bay in Wellington alongside the harbour, I'm seeing people streaming around with their kids, fishing, biking, jogging, just wondering around aimlessly, they're not maintaining distancing from each other," he said.

"People aren't listening, that's the problem. We need a higher level of compliance and we need a higher level of enforcement."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs