An exodus of people from Auckland on Tuesday night has been described as ''selfish and appalling'' and sparked a plea for everyone to follow lockdown restrictions.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai has hit out at Aucklanders who continue to pour into Northland in the face of the level 4 lockdown.
Mai said anecdotal evidence indicated Aucklanders had again exited northwards in droves ahead of Tuesday night's level 4 Covid-19 lockdown starting.
"In the situation facing us, even one Aucklander is one too many," Mai said.
She said this placed Northlanders, in their home, at risk.
That was particularly the case with the more contagious Delta strain being confirmed in the first Devonport case, identified on Tuesday.
"Think again, this is our home, you stay in your home," Mai said.
"Clearly the cases (identified this week) are Auckland-based. People coming up here from Auckland may not even know they have been exposed to the virus before they left.
"I just hope nobody has come up here feeling sick. That's even worse."
Mai said the lockdown rules were there for a reason, to protect people and stop the spread of thee virus.
The group behind last year's Covid checkpoints says it counted as many as 500 cars an hour heading north on State Highway 1 on Tuesday evening.
Rueben Taipari, co-ordinator of Tai Tokerau Border Control, said SH1 was ''chocka'' at Pakaraka, with traffic turning off to head up the east coast on SH10.
Towai, south of Kawakawa, was also busy, and a traffic count at the Ruakākā roundabout on SH1 showed 400-500 cars an hour were heading north.
The exodus slowed as the night wore on but after midnight it was still 100 an hour and it only stopped around 2am.
''We knew there was going to be a s***load of cars out there, and sure enough, all those boats and clowns going to their holiday homes. We're pissed off.''
With little notice of the lockdown, and late confirmation it was the Delta variant, it was not possible to set up checkpoints in time.
''Without sharing information and working together it's a waste of time doing all this other stuff. A lockdown? They just told everybody they've got a holiday for seven days.''
The group saw only two police vehicles all night.
Taipari called on people to abide by the level 4 rules, especially given Northland's vulnerable population.
''If we stop moving around, the virus won't spread. It's the Delta variant so it's very serious. Please, everybody, just stay home.''
Dean Whitehead, who lives next to SH1 in Bream Bay, said the highway was busy from about 8pm on Tuesday.
''When I went to bed around 10.40pm all I could see was a stream of lights snaking down the Brynderwyns,'' he said.
Some were likely to be Northlanders legitimately trying to get home before level 4 restrictions came into force, but others would have been heading to holiday homes.
''We've seen this before in earlier lockdowns, a sudden influx of people into Northland. It's appalling and selfish. The whole idea of a lockdown is to try to contain a virus — no one knows who's got it.''
Whitehead said to be effective lockdowns had to be immediate and police should turn back people who weren't genuinely going home.
''They could be infecting people here. I understand why people would want to do it but it [the lockdown] isn't going to work if we're just going to think about ourselves.''
One Matapōuri resident, who did want to be named, estimated the coastal settlement's population had gone up 20 per cent overnight.
''They [Aucklanders fleeing the lockdown] are definitely here. It's a joke. I've said something to a few of them, but it goes in one ear and out the other,'' he said.
''We all look at Australia and think, 'We don't want to turn out like that' — but we are acting exactly like the Australians.''
If there had been an outbreak in Matapōuri and townsfolk fled to Auckland he was certain police would come looking for them, but it seemed people were able to leave Auckland with impunity.
However, an Auckland invasion was not reported in Ngunguru and Tutukaka, where residents told the Advocate their towns were quieter than usual.
That was echoed by Mangawhai Business Association chairman Alan Corkin who hadn't seen anything to suggest a great influx.
''It's very quiet here. Nothing stands out as people being on holiday, like cars loaded with stuff.''
During the last lockdown ''quite a number'' of people had gone to Mangawhai instead of staying locked down in Auckland, but on this occasion the announcement had come late in the day so there was less time to leave the city.