Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira is calling on the region's influential iwi chairs group to press for stronger action to protect Northlanders from Covid-19 — and to include his ''border control'' team in any future checkpoints.
Harawira set up the self-styled Tai Tokerau Border Control (TTBC) during the first lockdown in 2020 amid concerns that police were not enforcing no-travel restrictions.
While iwi-run checkpoints were hugely controversial they were also credited with helping to keep the virus out of Northland and East Cape.
Northland police worked with TTBC, stationing officers at checkpoints to make them legal.
In January, however, following a fresh outbreak, police stopped TTBC volunteers setting up a ''Covid information centre'' on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa.
The group has not set up checkpoints during the current Auckland lockdown.
Harawira said the situation had ''gone from bad to worse'' in recent months with more contagious strains of the virus and an ''open-door policy'' during alert levels 1 and 2 allowing tens of thousands of people to move freely into Northland.
Many of those could unknowingly be casual contacts of the latest community cases in Auckland.
Harawira said he knew of many whānau who had visited the so-called ''locations of interest'' while travelling to Auckland and back during the past month. Some had also visited people within the cluster contact groups before returning home.
He had been told of someone who had returned from overseas, completed the obligatory 14-day isolation then ignored the request to self-isolate for a further five days — putting five rural Northland communities and one town at risk.
When he tried to find out what to do about it he was told self-isolation was a courtesy request, not an obligation, and that the risk was minimal after 14 days.
Given the vulnerability of Northland's kuia and kaumātua, Harawira urged the Tai Tokerau Iwi Chairs forum to speak out over what he called the government's lack of urgency around the dangers posed by the new strains of Covid.
He also called on iwi leaders to support involvement of TTBC personnel at all Northland checkpoints.
Group members had built up considerable experience and operating police-only checkpoints was inconsistent with Treaty policy and practice, Harawira added.
''Shifting alert levels up and down to suit national agendas is not in the best interests of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our kaumātua and kuia, and those of our whānau suffering from ill health ... the threat to our old people is real,'' he said.
Harawira was under the gun himself last April after being accused of apparently breaking lockdown by taking a 640km round trip to Auckland on Easter Sunday.
Harawira posted photos from his breakfast in Auckland on his Facebook page, after the ex-MP had set up roadblocks around Northland to stop unnecessary travel and potential spread of the Covid-19 virus.
However, Harawira has defended the trip, saying he drove to Auckland to carry out essential tasks such as collecting medical equipment for his Covid-19 checkpoints.