Three iwi-led travel checkpoints have been established across Northland today with more on their way tomorrow, as locals look to shore up the region's defences against Covid-19.
The checkpoints, led by Ngāti Hine with help from the Tai Tokerau Border Control group, police and KIA tUPATO, are in response to yesterday's announcement that a woman travelled throughout the region before testing positive for the virus.
The woman, who is understood to have visited Whangārei, Kawakawa and Paihia among other areas, returned a weak positive test result initially before a testing positive again in Auckland.
However, the woman has allegedly been uncooperative with contract tracing efforts, according to Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.
It is understood the woman was travelling with another woman, who police have not be able to locate.
Several locations of interest in Northland have been revealed, including a hotel, a campground, a dairy and two service stations.
In response, a checkpoint was set up at Waiomio - about 30 minutes north of Whangārei - on State Highway 1 this morning.
People with essential travel purposes or who lived in the area were allowed through, while those making non-essential travel north were turned around.
Two more checkpoints have been erected at Kaeo near Whangaroa College and on Matauri Bay Rd. Mobile units had also been employed to check people were following alert level restrictions.
Ngāti Hine spokesman Pita Tipene was happy with how the day went.
"We achieved what we wanted. We turned back more cars than we ever did."
Excuses motorists heading north gave, he said, were going sightseeing to the Bay of Islands and one driver said he wanted to check on his animals in Keirkeri.
"One guy said he was off to Oromahoe to buy cheese. He wanted that particular type of cheese. When asked whether he lived on cheese, obviously the answer was no," he said.
Group spokesperson Hone Harawira said more checkpoints would be set up tomorrow on State Highway 15 which leads to Kaikohe, and on State Highway 12 which leads to the Hokianga.
In January, police disbanded the group's checkpoint at Waiomio, much to Harawira's disappointment at the time.
Asked whether he was confident the checkpoints would remain up this time, Harawira wasn't sure - saying officers in Northland were almost always good to work with.
However, the former MP said the checkpoints were critical to the safety of vulnerable Tai Tokerau whānau.
Police were reportedly at the Waiomio checkpoint today as it was operating.
About 100 vehicles had been stopped at the Waiomio checkpoint by 10.30am, with the majority being let through.
Tai Tokerau Border Control regional co-ordinator Reuben Taipari, who had been stationed at the checkpoint since its inception, said essential workers were being let through.
Taipari said people had been largely compliant with checkpoint staff and only a few had been unhappy with the directive.
He said it was a collaborative effort between iwi, hapū and police.
As details were sparse, he hoped more checkpoints weren't required, but said they would be established as necessary.
"Our communities further north are very concerned so we're trying to avoid having a mass stand-up of checkpoints but it comes down to clear communication."
In a statement yesterday, Tai Tokerau Border Control convener Nyze Porter said mobile patrols may also be used alongside fixed checkpoints to prevent anyone slipping through.
"Now that the decision has been made that Northland will go back to [alert] level 3, we will be asking people not to travel north from Whangārei until we get the all-clear from authorities," Manuel said.
"We're also talking to police about running mobile patrols to counter people trying to slip the border through the back roads."
Police have been approached for comment.