Stories of the devastating effect of the 1918 influenza pandemic are keeping a group of iwi volunteers focused as they stop non-essential travellers on State Highway 1.
Since Friday, members of Ngāti Hine, along with police and traffic control contractors, have been running a checkpoint at Waiomio, south of Kawakawa.
Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene said the checkpoint — which they had called Te Purunga ki Ngāti Hine, or The Plug at Ngāti Hine — was the tribe's small contribution towards the regionwide network of highway checkpoints monitoring for non-essential travel.
It complements five checkpoints run by Auckland police at Northland's southern border and at least three checkpoints operated by the iwi-led Taitokerau Border Control at Mangamuka, Kaeo and Hokianga.
Tipene said they were doing more than just checking for non-essential travel.
''It's also about checking on the wellbeing of our community, which is why the Ngāti Hine Health Trust provides pamphlets with information about getting Covid vaccinations, offering bottles of water and just enquiring about how people are coping.''
The key kaupapa, however, was to help manage the risk of the Delta virus spreading and keep people safe.
About 1000 motorists passed through the checkpoint on Friday and 485 on Saturday.
On Sunday, traffic was very light, which Tipene put down to families celebrating Father's Day in their bubbles and the message getting through about limiting travel to essential purposes and the local area — to most people, anyway.
Some drivers had been turned around for failing to follow level 3 guidelines, with one couple saying they were heading to the Bay of Islands for some sightseeing.
Other were doing U-turns at the top of Waiomio Hill when they saw the checkpoint or tried to sneak through on back roads.
The odd driver was unco-operative and ''downright rude'' but the majority supported the iwi's efforts.
The checkpoint was a collaborative effort with Northland police and Kia Tupato Traffic Control.
Tipene said the checkpoint crew started each day with a karakia and a briefing, in which they were reminded of the stories of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and its fatal effects on Northland.
''Our local cemeteries are full of graves with no names on them, given that mass graves were dug and the deceased hurriedly buried with no service as the flu decimated our valleys. These stories keep us focused and disciplined in our collective duties,'' he said.
The group was due to decide at the end of Sunday whether to continue the checkpoint today. [Monday] They would also talk to the other groups operating checkpoints in Northland, Tipene said.
The current situation at Waiomio is a contrast to level 4 when police moved to stop Taitokerau Border Control setting up a checkpoint at the same location, saying the more contagious nature of the Delta variant made it too risky to have volunteers manning roadblocks.
Since the region dropped to alert level 3, 68 vehicles have been turned away for non-essential travel across five police checkpoints established on Northland's southern border with Auckland. Saturday alone saw 28 vehicles turned around.
The total number of vehicles turned around formed around four per cent of the overall 1616 vehicles stopped at either State Highway 1 near the intersection with Mangawhai Rd, Mangawhai Rd north of Coal Hill Rd, Mangawhai Rd and Cames Rd intersection, Mangawhai Rd and Ryan Rd intersection, and Black Swamp Rd, west of Rako Rd between 11.59pm on September 2 and 3:30pm on Saturday.