10 Apr 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: Police issue more than 100 warnings in 24 hours

6:40 pm on 10 April 2020

Police are dishing out dozens of warnings for drivers who have been caught breaking lockdown rules at checkpoints set up around the country.

Police have set up checkpoints throughout New Zealand in case anyone thinks they can go to holiday spots over the long weekend.

Police checkpoint at Paekakariki

Police checkpoint at Paekakariki Photo: SUPPLIED

Police said while the majority of people stopped at checkpoints were complying with lockdown rules, some were not and were turned around or issued fines.

Four out of 40 vehicles stopped in one hour at a northbound checkpoint on SH1 at Fisherman's Table, Paekakariki, today were turned around.

They included a man who had driven from Porirua with his dogs and was heading to Waikanae to walk them as "that's where he always goes", and four flatmates heading to Otaki for a day tramp in the bush.

Another couple from Pukerua Bay were heading to Paekakariki to walk the Escarpment Track, which was deemed unsafe.

Police conducted 190 checkpoints across the country yesterday, and while checkpoint data for every district wasn't yet available, initial reports showed:

  • Almost 400 vehicles were stopped in Southern District, with five warnings given for minor breaches.
  • Across Central District, 2123 vehicles were stopped, and 57 warnings were given out. Of those given warnings, 26 vehicles were turned around.
  • In Rotorua, 600 vehicles were stopped with three turned back for non-essential travel.
  • Up until 4pm yesterday, more than 2000 vehicles went through checkpoints across Auckland, with 46 drivers issued warnings.

Roads deserted as people stay inside

Some of the country's busiest holiday highways were virtually empty today.

Police checkpoint on SH1 in Warkworth, north of Auckland

Police checkpoint on SH1 in Warkworth, north of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Sergeant Andrew Wallace was manning a checkpoint on State Highway 1 at Warkworth, north of Auckland, which would normally have traffic backed-up on Good Friday.

"Most people have been compliant. The main things we're seeing in terms of people not complying is groups of people heading off to the supermarket when really one person should be doing that job," he said.

"We have caught the occasional person heading for a surf up north. Those people have been turned around after they've been educated, and they may receive a warning as well."

One person was travelling from Orewa to Omaha - a drive of at least 20 minutes - to walk their dog, he said.

"One has to wonder whether the beach in Orewa is still there."

SH1 in Warkworth, north of Auckland during covid-19 coronavirus lockdown on good friday

SH1 north of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

He said it's strange to see this stretch of road so quiet at the start of a long weekend.

"Normally this road would be like a carpark - it'd be bumper to bumper all the way to Puhoi."

An aspect that people perhaps don't think as much about is that if they crash on their way to their holiday homes, they use up important resources and amplify the risk of spreading Covid-19.

"If you're out driving around and you do get involved in a crash you are involving everyone else in that car and you are tying up police, resources, health resources and you really don't need to."

Police checkpoint in the North Canterbury town of Amberley

Police checkpoint in Amberley. Photo: RNZ / Anan Zaki

Down south, in the North Canterbury town of Amberley this morning, officers joked there were more police and media on the road than regular motorists.

State Highway 1, which runs through the town, had almost no traffic and Canterbury's rural area commander Peter Cooper said he was pleased the public were heeding the rules.

"We've done several of these checkpoints around Canterbury this morning and last night, and generally people are well and truly aware of the requirements," Cooper said.

Police are staying tight-lipped on where roadblocks will be placed to prevent non-essential travel this Easter.

Man wasted police resources

Police said a man in the Wairarapa last night told a family member he was going fishing on the coast.

Local police started planning for a potential search and rescue operation after he didn't return and didn't contact family.

The 'missing' man was found and it appeared he decided to stay on the coast overnight in his car.

This was a prime example of someone putting themselves and emergency responders at risk and wasting police resources, police said.

In general, police have recorded a total of 583 breaches, with 74 prosecutions and 495 warnings issued since Alert Level 4 restrictions came into force.

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