3 Dec 2021

Summer checkpoint plan welcomed by Te Tai Tokerau iwi

9:48 am on 3 December 2021

Police say they will work with iwi at checkpoints to make sure Aucklanders hoping to take a break in Te Tai Tokerau are double-vaccinated or have proof of a negative Covid-19 test when the border opens in two weeks' time.

Former MP Hone Harawira organised the Far North Covid-19 checkpoint.

Former MP and founder of Te Tai Tokerau Border Control Hone Harawira says it's important as many people in the region as possible are fully vaccinated before borders reopen on 15 December. Photo: RNZ / Talei Anderson

The move comes after the government refused a request from iwi leaders and Northern District health boards to allow only fully vaccinated people from Auckland, into Northland.

However, those who were not vaccinated would be required to return a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before travelling, the government said.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told Morning Report the organisation had established "quite a good model" of working alongside iwi in the north and they would be assisting police throughout the summer period in order to enforce the travel rules.

"Our conversation with iwi has been about creating assurance that people travelling north do meet the requirements; obviously there's been a lot of concern up there and what we want to do is make sure that we are working in partnership with iwi, including so we can avoid any unlawful actions like the blocking of roads."

There would always be a police presence when vehicles were stopped he said, but Māori wardens and others who had been "trained to do that job" would be assisting in terms of "engagement with vehicles".

Police would be carrying out a combination of spot-checks and checkpoints in order to ensure the rules were being complied with, Coster said.

"We will certainly do some static checkpoints and where we do that we will work alongside iwi and that will be about checking vehicles as they go past to make sure those requirements are met."

Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder Hone Harawira said the organisation was grateful police had picked up on the concerns of local people and would be operating checkpoints over the summer.

However, he noted iwi would have preferred to restrict all travel into the region until 90 percent of its eligible population had been double-vaccinated.

"We still have a huge need to try to maintain that level of safety while we're working - day, night, every hour that God has given us - to get as many of our people vaccinated as possible before December the 15th comes around," he told Morning Report.

Harawira said he saw no reason why everybody entering the region couldn't be checked.

"I think we've been given the opportunity to ask travellers to present their credentials and if they haven't got them, then turn around and go back."

Coster said police were conscious of the need to let traffic flow as freely as possible but maintained his staff would be checking "a large proportion" of vehicles and said people "should assume that they will be checked; be ready with their evidence".

Police would not hesitate to turn around those who could not produce the required evidence and anyone trying to sneak across the border without a vaccine certificate or a negative test would be "running a high risk", he said, noting the $1000 fine for non-compliance.

"People know the expectation around this so we won't be shy about using that enforcement tool."

Harawira said he saw the iwi role in helping at checkpoints as being more about informing people why the measures were necessary to keep the community safe.

"We're not pushing hard on that word 'hard borders'; our view about pou kōrero, is about a listening post, a talking post - giving people the right kind of information - and if they have to turn around, the reasons why, and if they're allowed to come through, providing them with places where they might need to go for a test or things like that, if they've never been up here during Covid ...

"We want to try to be as positive and as open and as welcoming as we can be to those who are allowed to come north."

All police staff who crossed the border into Te Tai Tokerau would need to meet the requirements for travel, Coster said.

"Most of our people are vaccinated and they are always wearing PPE when they're working...

"We will meet all of the requirements that are placed on the public."

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