15 Dec 2021

Auckland borders reopen: Travellers rejoice as they resume work, reunite with family

2:59 pm on 15 December 2021

It is the first day in nearly four months that people have been allowed to travel into or out of Auckland without an exemption, after the Delta outbreak triggered a lockdown.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated or has had a negative Covid-19 test in the past 72 hours can leave the region.

One woman departing from Auckland Airport said it was great to see the domestic terminal brought back to life again.

"It's been very hard on businesses," she said.

Another passenger said she was so excited to leave the region to see loved ones.

"I can't wait to see my family, just bear hug [them]."

One flyer said she came about an hour and a half early thinking it would be busy but it was not too bad.

Marthie, who is traveling to the South Island, thinks people in the regions should be grateful to have visitors from the city.

People checking in at Auckland Airport's domestic terminal.

People checking in at Auckland Airport's domestic terminal. Photo: RNZ/Ellie Jay

Marthie is going to see her daughter in Picton after the lockdown disrupted plans to visit in October.

"They should be very grateful we're there, we're all boosted and double vaccinated, so we're all very safe, and I think the people travelling are the ones who are double vaccinated and boosted.

"We're not actually [presenting] any risk. I think they should be saying yay for Aucklanders."

Marthie said she was looking forward to taking day trips and visiting wineries in the region.

Roadside cafés along the roads out of Auckland are hoping the border reopening will provide a much-needed boost to their business.

The owner of a bakery store in the South Auckland suburb of Drury said the shop was busy with travellers this morning.

Kelly Lin, from Drury Breadbasket, said her shop was busier than normal and some customers were telling her that they were travelling to Hamilton to visit family and friends.

Kelly Lin, owner of Drury Breadbasket, says the shop was busier than normal this morning. some customers were telling her they were traveling to Hamilton to visit family and friends.

Kelly Lin, owner of Drury Breadbasket, says the shop was busier than normal this morning. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

She said her shop still applied the one in, one out customer policy to keep everyone safe.

Suzanne Braks, who runs the Autobahn Café at Papakura and Bombay, said the cafe was busier than it had been all week.

"There's a buzz in the air and there's definitely some normality, the car park seems to be filling [up], and the road is busy."

She said it was not flat out and she was not sure how busy it would be today, but she expected the weekend and Christmas period to be booming.

"In 14 hours, we did 57 transcations, and that's not normal for here ... we're doing about a tenth of our turnover at the moment, it's been terrible.

"This business has been here for 23 years [in Papakura], and in Bombay for 26, a successful business can't just collapse, it has to keep going.

"There's a bit of abuse out there, it hasn't been great," she said regarding compliance with rules likes mask-wearing and vaccine passes.

"There hasn't been any dramas so far but it's only early days. But there has been a bit of online abuse from some anti-vaxxers and stuff which has been a bit troubling."

Similarly in Bombay, a Z service station staff member said their store was busier today and so is the motorway.

The staff member said customers seemed pretty light-hearted and it was great to see things were returning to normal.

Darren Ward stopped by to get fuel while travelling up to Auckland from Huntly for work, for the first time in months. He told RNZ it felt good to be getting out.

"I've been waiting for a long time cause sitting at home's all right for awhile but it's too long."

Lorraine Chapman, in Bombay, South Auckland, said she could not wait to visit her grandsons in Onewhero.

This was from earlier, just on case it's useful: Bombay woman Lorraine Chapman says she can't wait to visit her grandsons in Onewhero.

Bombay woman Lorraine Chapman says she can't wait to visit her grandsons in Onewhero. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Her grandsons, aged 10 and eight, have new animals on their farm that they want to show her, including guinea pigs, dogs and cats.

"I'm very excited, I've told the boys wait 'til you see the little blue bubble coming down the driveway and I honk my horn all the way down, yeah, I did it before."

Shameel Rauf from Hamilton is looking forward to meeting his colleagues in Auckland again.

Shameel Rauf, a sales manager, says he has been working from home since August and is really excited to be able to travel to Auckland to meet with his team.

Shameel Rauf, a sales manager, says he has been working from home since August and is really excited to be able to travel to Auckland to meet with his team. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

He is the head of sales for a building company, and along with his team members, they have been working from home since the outbreak.

Rauf said he was happy that things have opened up for Aucklanders who have had a tough time.

Derick Miller, who works as an occupational hygienist making workplaces safe, is travelling to Palmerston North today.

He was among those making the most of the freedom to hold in-person meetings again.

"Fly in, do the job, fly back home again ... It means we can actually get on with the job now, so instead of trying to do it by Zoom, we can actually go down and do it face-to-face, it's quite difficult to do it remotely."

Northlanders 'excited' for reopening of borders

Over in Northland, one local said he was going down to Auckland because he desperately needed a new van.

"Pretty excited [to leave], it's been a long time that travel is restricted, so yeah, it's quite exciting."

Another local said he had applied for an exemption to go through the Northland border twice but was declined.

"It's brilliant [that the border is open]. We've been hanging out for this, getting angrier and angrier."

At Ruakākā, south of Whangārei, the owner of Bream Bay Suprette said they have had twice the number of customers today.

"I opened the shop at six o'clock, I knew there'd be a lot of traffic too," he said.

"We got a lot of feedback from customers that they are pretty satisfied with the borders [reopening], and how police are trying to arrange it."

Police with iwi support at a checkpoint on SH1 at Uretiti. It is one of two new short-term checkpoints for northbound traffic set up as the Auckland region boundary opened.

Police with iwi support at a checkpoint on SH1 at Uretiti. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone 

Earlier this morning, Northland District Commander superintendent Tony Hill said so far everyone who was checked going north from Auckland met the requirements to continue travelling.

"This is the first time that it's a police-led operation in terms of checking that people are complying with the requirements set by the government.

"So we weren't really sure what we'd see - but what we are seeing is that people are coming up and are prepared."

Hill said the police plan was to move to doing spot checks, rather than stopping most traffic.

Queenstown mayor greets first plane from Auckland

"Flight was really lovely," said one flyer who just landed into Queenstown this morning. "There was kind of an atmosphere of general excitement and that people were keen to be out really. We're off to walk the Milford Track."

A group of young girls said they had travelled down for the Alps 2 Ocean cycling trail.

"We booked this closer to the beginning of this year," a woman going to Queenstown and the Otago Rail Trail said. "We chose this date, but it did look like it would be up in the air, but this happened to be the date when they opened things up."

One plane enthusiast, Sam, who was travelling with his family had this plea: "I really want everyone to save Air New Zealand's Boeing-777s because they're grounded right now and hopefully Air New Zealand will earn enough money to operate them again and keep operating them for like another five years."

Passengers arriving in Queenstown on the first flight from Auckland on Wednesday 15 December 2021.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult is stoked to welcome Aucklanders back to the southern tourism town.

Boult was at Queenstown Airport to greet the first plane in from the country's biggest city about 8.45am.

It has been 117 days since Queenstown last had a flight from Auckland, but 11 are scheduled to arrive today, bringing more than 1500 passengers.

Auckland accounts for almost a third of domestic tourism spending in the Queenstown Lakes district.

Boult said it had been a long economic winter for the town's tourism operators since the pandemic hit and he hoped people would continue visiting from Auckland.

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