23 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Council, police and iwi form 'partnership' after plan to close tribal borders

1:01 pm on 23 March 2020

Ōpōtiki District Council and police have met with Te Whānau ā Apanui following the Eastern Bay of Plenty's announcement in the weekend that they wanted to close iwi borders.

Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer

Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer Photo: Facebook

Iwi leader Willie Te Aho said at the weekend plans were already in place to block the borders and operate a permit system for residents.

Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer said all parties had now formed a working group and police said the iwi would not block roads.

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Riesterer said today the newly-formed group was to ensure everyone was working together to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

"Today we met with iwi leaders, district and regional council, and the police, to make sure we were all on the same page," Riesterer said. "It was really important that we approached this with open minds and community well-being at the front of all our thinking.

"Once you put people first, then all other actions flow from that. I completely understand Te Whānau ā Apanui's desire to protect their greatest taonga, their kaumatua, and we want to work alongside them as, at the end of the day, that is what we all want to do.

"Our Māori communities have been disproportionately impacted by disease and previous pandemics have hurt our communities more than can ever be counted. And Te Whānau ā Apanui have a unique set of circumstances around access, land ownership, and geographical isolation. This is the action they have decided is necessary to protect the vulnerable and elders," she said.

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Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha said the iwi would not block roads illegally.

"No one has set out to establish illegal roadblocks, this is about community police and iwi taking the lead to ensure rural communities that don't have immediate access to support services are well protected," he said.

"We are all coming to this kaupapa from the same place, out of a need to protect the most vulnerable in the community.

"This is Te Whānau ā Apanui taking a strong leadership role and we want to model what it looks like when iwi, police, councils and other agencies work in partnership. Our role is supporting this cultural response to COVID-19".

Details on the partnership were expected to be discussed at a hui today.

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