19 Oct 2021

Ngāti Whātua defends border after Harawira criticism

9:29 pm on 19 October 2021

Ngāti Whātua is defending the management of the border between Te Tai Tokerau and Tāmaki Makaurau.

The Te Hana border stop today.

The Te Hana border stop today. Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

This morning on RNZ, Hone Harawira (Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine, Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua), who coordinates border control further north between Whāngarei and Kawakawa, criticised the mahi happening further south.

About 45 people are spread across the shifts each day at the Te Hana checkpoint on State Highway One, just north of Warkworth.

It is a team made up of mana whenua, police, defence force, and traffic controllers.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua chief operations officer Antony Thompson (Ngāti Whātua) has spent some days there himself and said the criticism was "really hard to understand".

"You have to remember that Ngāti Whātua have been on the checkpoints at Te Hana for the last seven weeks and in those last seven weeks the goalposts have changed almost daily."

He also said traffic was being stopped in the right places.

"If you want to set up checkpoints elsewhere in the north, you're going to have the complexity of by-roads and side-roads. For example, if you wanted to set up a checkpoint in say Waipū or Uretiti - which has been a focal point lately - there's at least another 15 to 16 roads and sideroads around the area that could get you from let's say, the Brynderwyns, through other alternative routes to Whangārei."

On the ashphalt today, alongside the portaloos, tents, caravans and cones, were Ngāti Whatua kaitiaki.

Dallas Martin ,18, (Ngāti Whātua) is one of the youngest on the team.

He has been there for just over three weeks, making sure people scan in when they arrive.

Martin said he had learned "more than in school".

"People say that this is a pretty easy job - it's not - standing in the sun all day is exhausting."

Kiri Pirika (Ngāti Whātua), has been coming back week after week since the checkpoint was first set up.

He just wants to keep Delta out of the north.

"I think we did well. Even though we had a couple of people that got through."

Peter Tumata (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Waikato) oversees the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua team at the site.

He said there were ways mana whenua reduced tension with travellers that others in uniform could not.

"For example we had a whaea come to the line, her whānau up north were struggling up with kai and she felt the need to attend to that. Our kaitiaki got her information, we sorted out health services on that side, to engage the whānau there and provide them with kai."

The latest police data shows, on Sunday, 56 of 1766 vehicles at the Auckland / Northland checkpoints were turned away.

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