An iwi border protection group is re-assessing its plans after members were told they'd be arrested if they went ahead with a checkpoint on State Highway 1.
Taitokerau Border Control (TBC), founded last year by former MP Hone Harawira amid concerns about illegal travel spreading the Covid-19 virus, is expected to decide its next steps today.
That could include a return to the small-scale local checkpoints that operated in places like Waitangi and north of Houhora last year.
The Government yesterday
said Northland would move to level 3 from 11.59pm on Thursday if certain conditions were met.
The TBC decision on checkpoints will factor in the upcoming alert level change and discussions between Harawira and Te Hiku iwi leaders yesterday.
TBC co-ordinator Reuben Taipari said at the invitation of Ngāti Hine, and with the potential for a drop to alert level 3, a group travelled to Waiomio, on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa, on Friday to consider setting up a checkpoint.
''We got down there and we were having a kōrero when police rolled in from Kerikeri and assembled their paddy wagons down the other end of the strip.''
The group of about 20 was approached by an iwi liaison officer who said they could leave quietly or be arrested for breaching alert level 4 rules on gatherings.
They waited until 3pm then, given the police warning, light traffic and the decision to keep Northland at level 4, decided to pack up.
''We chose to pull back and re-assess. We didn't go down there for a dust-up or to get arrested ... We're not here to be part of the problem, we're here to be part of the solution. So we decided to pull back, go home and protect our local communities.''
The next steps could involve members setting up local checkpoints, especially in east coast areas which had seen a large influx of people at the start of the lockdown.
The checkpoints would be done professionally but would have to be done without police this time.
Taipari said the group had worked with police and kept them informed from the outset.
''But now the police don't want to work with us, they don't believe we are essential. That doesn't change the fact that if Delta gets up here we're screwed. We've got too many elderly, too many people with health issues. It is unacceptable to do nothing.''
TBC believed Northland needed to stay at level 4 longer because, according to its medical advisors, too many contacts had not yet been tested.
If the roads had been closed on the day the lockdown was announced Northland could already be at level 3, Taipari said.
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill said police were aware of plans to set up a community checkpoint near Waiomio on Friday afternoon in anticipation of an alert level change.
However, with the country still in alert level 4, police attended and engaged with the people present about restrictions currently in place, and the work police were doing around enforcement.
''Those present left after being spoken to and no checkpoint was set up. No enforcement action was taken,'' Hill said.
''We are committed to continuing our proactive approach to enforcement and we are reassuring iwi and communities that they can have confidence in the work we are doing.
"Police and iwi are coming to this kaupapa from the same place — we all want to keep our whānau and communities safe, given the greater risk posed by the Delta variant,'' he said.
A TBC Facebook Live session on Sunday, hosted by Te Aupōuri chief executive Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, has so far been viewed more than 1200 times.
Hone Harawira, who took viewers' questions along with Taipari and Nyze Manuel, said he had accepted police assurances they had the situation under control when the lockdown was announced on August 17.
He apologised for not setting up checkpoints straight away and said the stream of vehicles that left Auckland in the hours that followed was the reason Northland remained in level 4.
When police set up 24-hour checkpoints at the main entry points to Northland eight days later it was too late to stop an influx of close contacts.
''We've been caught up in this because somebody chose not to put up a hard border ... We've done the research, it's a dangerous virus.''
Taipari also urged whānau not to try coming home to Northland.
''Stay in your own kainga. It's what our tupuna would do if they were under attack.''