A planned blockade of State Highway 1 north of Whangārei was scrapped yesterday after discussions with police but others went ahead including road blocks near Kawakawa and Kaitaia.

A member of the
A member of the "Tai Tokerau border crew" talks to a motorist at the Waiomio checkpoint. Photo / John Stone

Three carloads of tourists were reportedly turned back from the Waiomio checkpoint, on SH1 south of Kawakawa, while five carloads of surfers heading to Ahipara and a campervan were turned back at Victoria Valley, on SH1 south of Kaitaia.

On Sunday former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira announced plans to set up ''medical checkpoints'' on main routes into the Far North due to what he said was Government inaction to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus to vulnerable communities.

Volunteers at the checkpoints, which were to have started a noon yesterday at Whakapara, on SH1, and Waipoua, on SH12, planned to turn back all tourists as well as New Zealanders who didn't live in the Far North. Food, medicine and other essential supplies would be allowed through.

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Hone Harawira at the checkpoint at the bottom of Waiomio Hill, on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa. Photo / John Stone
Hone Harawira at the checkpoint at the bottom of Waiomio Hill, on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa. Photo / John Stone

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Harawira said the Prime Minister's decision to raise the Covid-19 alert to Level 4 from 11.59pm last night had not changed his mind because it was ''too little, too late''.

In particular he was concerned about overseas visitors ''roaming freely around the North'' without observing self-isolation rules.

There are 78 new cases of Covid-19, including 73 confirmed cases and five new probable cases, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says. The new cases bring the total number of confirmed or probable infections to 283.

Harawira's supporters setting up at Whakapara were met by police — including the Far North's top cop, Inspector Riki Whiu, and iwi liaison officers — and agreed to relocate to the bottom of Waiomio Hill.

It is believed police had safety concerns about the Whakapara site.

At Waiomio, where there was space for vehicles to pull off the road, volunteers in full safety gear spoke to drivers and carried out temperature checks.

At another checkpoint, on SH1 at Victoria Valley, south of Kaitaia, members of Te Paatu hapū also carried out basic health checks.

Dressed in a contamination suit, gloves, facemask and goggles, Wikatana Popata told Tautoko FM he had turned back one campervan from Taranaki and five carloads of overseas tourists heading to Ahipara to go surfing.

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''It's just not on, bowling on in and going surfing in a time of crisis. They could potentially be carrying the virus. We're just trying to protect our elderly and our mokopuna,'' he said.

Whangaroa iwi say they plan checkpoints from today on SH10 at the top of Kaeo Hill and at Oruaiti School, both on SH10.

Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira with part of the
Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira with part of the "border crew" conducting checks at Waiomio, south of Kawakawa on State Highway 1. Photo / Hone Harawira

Former Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan did not take part in yesterday's checkpoints but is providing health and Covid-19 assessment advice to those involved.

''I am supportive of highlighting the concerns Māori have of a repeat of 1918 which saw Māori communities decimated by the Spanish u pandemic. It's also critical that every single person in New Zealand follow the rules around the nationwide lockdown ... It is going to take a concerted national effort to beat this virus, so we all need to play our part."

Others, however, were unimpressed, including former Māori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels.

''Nobody can interfere with the lawful movement of other New Zealanders. Sure we care, like everybody else, but this is not a time for grandstanding by the sheriff of Kaitaia.''

Samuels said he had phoned Northland MPs and Police Minister Stuart Nash urging them to take action.

''It's unlawful and they should be arrested,'' he said.

Harawira said he realised setting up the checkpoints put him and his crew at risk of the virus, but he believed he had no choice if Tai Tokerau was to be defended.

Police have been contacted for comment.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website