21 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Far North iwi want region to stay at alert level 4

12:09 pm on 21 April 2020

Iwi in the Far North have joined forces to declare they do not want their region to move into a level 3 lockdown next week.

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

They say the clear message they have received from communities is that people will not feel safe if level 4 is relaxed.

The Far North has seen community-based efforts to ensure people are following self-isolation rules.

Former Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira set the ball rolling by setting up teams to run checkpoints to ensure outsiders were not sneaking into the region.

Harawira told Morning Report that Māori would be "whacked" if Covid-19 got into his community.

"For us the greatest concern is the fact that Māori have those existing pre-conditions, medical conditions which are a breeding ground for Covid. We're talking lung cancer, respiratory problems, pneumonia, rheumatism, kidney disease, liver disease those things are rife within Māori communities.

"Our concern is simply that if we downgrade the alert now and Covid does get into our communities it's going to be too late to try to get it out later and our people will get whacked."

He said the vast majority of people supported the checkpoints into the region.

"We've had close discussions with the police about what we do and they've suggested how we should change the way we're doing things and we're really adaptable to ensure that traffic flows, it's not being held up for hours and hours. But that we're passing on genuine warnings and health information and giving numbers to people should they be concerned so they know where they can go to."

Harawira said it was not the intention to drag out level 4 restrictions "forever and a day".

"I am concerned however that having gone there [level 4] we relax it, Covid 19 gets into rural communities and we can't get it out again, that's the concern - it's not about we want to drag this on forever and a day."