Most of the iwi-led ''border control'' checkpoints around the Far North have been lifted — but organisers say they'll be back if people don't take the lockdown seriously.
Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira instigated road blocks at key entry points to the Far North because of what he said was a lack of action by the Government to stop the spread of coronavirus. In particular not enough was being done to stop tourists roaming around the countryside, he said.
Following negotiations with police on Wednesday the main checkpoint was set up at Waiomio, on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa, instead of at Whakapara as originally planned. Volunteers gave advice and a medical student carried out basic health checks, which included taking temperatures.
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The checkpoint was set up again on Thursday morning, then dismantled at noon.
Other checkpoints were set up on SH1 south of Kaitaia, on SH10 at Cable Bay and Kaeo, and in Hokianga targeting tourist traffic using the Rawene ferry.
One of the organisers, Rueben Taipari of Ahipara, said 10 motorists were turned back at Waiomio and about 50 across all checkpoints. Hundreds were spoken to over the two-day period.
The exercise had proved locals could show initiative and organise themselves if an outbreak threatened, he said.
''A lack of resources and support made it difficult but if we could all come together and work through the politics, I believe we could lock down Northland's borders and protect ourselves.''
Taipari said some of the tourists spoken to were unaware of the lockdown and promised to abide by the rules. Others had been looking for a place to isolate themselves so they were directed to officially approved quarantine areas in Whangārei.
Taipari said he had expected confrontation but there was very little. Some locals felt put out but others were supportive, saying the checkpoints made them feel reassured.
While the Waiomio checkpoint was lifted on Thursday it was up to each group to decide how long to continue, he said.
''I'm still getting feedback there's some tourists wandering around and people not following the rules of the lockdown.
''We're on standby. If it looks like people aren't taking it seriously we'll take action again.''
• Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website
Kaitaia police Senior Sergeant Russell Richards said most of those on the checkpoints had taken heed of the rules to self-isolate from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
''The police have had conversations with those that have chosen come out, and they've packed up and headed home to look after themselves and their own whānau. They've left the roads to the police to speak to motorists who are still out and about.''
Richards said blocking traffic was not legal under the Land Transport Act.
''But they are passionate people, tangata whenua that have strong views on keeping their community safe. While we didn't partake we made sure everyone involved kept themselves safe and responded to any concerns from the public.
''While some people were upset, others were supportive so we had a balanced approach.''
Richards said until the alert level was raised there had been a perceived lack of action to stop the virus spreading.
''Now that level 4 has kicked in and the majority of people are compliant we're able to manage those cars that are on the road and the campers that are in certain campsites.''