26 Mar 2020

Far North iwi checkpoint closes

4:44 pm on 26 March 2020

Checkpoints in the Far North running testing stations and turning tourists away with no isolation plans have been scaled back with organisers saying they have achieved their desired effect.

Iwi checkpoints were operating in the Far North on the night before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Photo: RNZ / Talei Anderson

Organiser and former MP Hone Harawira was overwhelmed with the support from police, who he said offered their assistance on the condition that volunteers moved to a safer spot on the road.

"To have the support from police like this is just... We were parked up somewhere that wasn't that clever, and then the officer said, 'If I can find you a better place and give you my boys, will you move?'

"He told us to come down here and it's been great because he's been able to put his cones up and get his boys up that end."

Thanks to "the boys", Harawira said he had received no trouble from drivers.

"If I tried waving people off to the side of the road they would run me down, but they won't run a policeman down.

"It's been really positive. We've got boys from Kaikohe, the boys in red, to support these two from Whakapara. It has just been a positive experience. Of all the people we have stopped so far, I think we've turned around two or three.

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

Former MP Hone Harawira organised the Far North Covid-19 checkpoint. Photo: RNZ / Talei Anderson

"We don't have any obligation to look after them and we don't want them to come into our territory, we'd rather send them back, so we give them the number of civil defence in Whangarei and they're expecting calls from our referrals."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

All vehicles that arrive at the State Highway 1 checkpoint near Whakapara or State Highway 12 at Waipoua are being asked three questions: Have you just arrived from overseas? Have you been in contact with anyone with the virus? And have you had a fever, sore throat or felt sick lately?

Craig Kelly and partner Kylie were travelling towards Kerikeri to isolate with family when they arrived at the checkpoint last night.

"We've been in and out of van parks, and had contact with other people, so might as well just get checked. We've got no dramas, as long as we're in Kerikeri by midnight," Kelly said.

"They told us what was happening and that's the way it is."

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Checkpoint volunteer and Auckland medical student, Rose Harris, has been screening drivers as they pass through.

She said tourists who were asked to turn around were given information and advice.

"They've had very clear plans and had a very clear understanding of what they need to do from now on in terms of our rules and regulations that the Prime Minister has set down.

"We're coming from a place of tautoko, manaaki, you know, how can we help them with their plans while they're in our vicinity?

"I'm here supporting this kaupapa with Hone because I'm trying to stop the virus from spreading and this is a very good way of doing it."

Hone Harawira said the checkpoint was closed this afternoon because the lockdown had the desired effect of clearing roads of tourists.

He said their focus continued on other checkpoints where they were identifying tourists still in the area and directing them out of Northland.

They are also supporting an initiative to provide ongoing medical support to kaumatua and kuia across the region.

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