Kāeo residents have been thrown into confusion by conflict between the alert level boundary as shown in a Health Ministry map and the actual location of the boundary checkpoint.
Police and Tai Tokerau Border Control volunteers have set up a checkpoint at Kāeo Bridge, a few kilometres north of the town on State Highway 10.
Motorists heading north from Kāeo are allowed to go right at the bridge to access settlements on the eastern side of Whangaroa Harbour and along Wainui Rd towards Matauri Bay.
Drivers turning left to cross the bridge and head further north on SH10, however, have to prove their travel is essential.
The same applies to traffic heading south across the bridge.
Police say the location was chosen because it is a natural chokepoint on SH10. It also avoids cutting Kāeo in two.
The Health Ministry alert level map, however, shows the boundary passing through Kāeo township.
Going by the map most of the town, including the shops in the town centre, is in alert level 3.
The college, primary school and homes at the southern end of town are in alert level 2.
The Health Ministry map also places the eastern side of Whangaroa Harbour, including Whangaroa township, Matangirau and Tauranga Bay, in level 3.
The checkpoint location, however, effectively places those areas in level 2.
Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa chief executive Bree Davis said locals were told to go online to check the Ministry's map showing the alert level boundary, but that didn't match the location of the checkpoint.
If the Ministry map was correct people on the northern side of the bridge would be able to come into town for essential supplies because their homes and the shop were all in level 3.
In reality, however, they had to cross the boundary checkpoint to access town.
''It's creating confusion and frustration for whānau on the other side of the bridge. It's stopping them getting kai from the Four Square,'' she said.
''Whānau want clarity. Can they cross the bridge or not?''
Davis said if the map was correct the alert level boundary would run roughly between the police station and Whangaroa College.
The Ministry's text alert also named Wainui among the areas in level 3 but the map placed it in level 2, she said.
TTBC co-ordinator Rueben Taipari said the mismatched boundaries had caused "all sorts of drama" with Kāeo and Whangaroa locals confused about whether they were in level 2 or 3.
"It's unnecessary drama for the community. We've used our local knowledge to move the border further north to a location that makes more sense for people in the area," he said.
They were manning three 24-hour checkpoints side-by-side with Northland Police and iwi partners located on SH1 at Mangamuka; SH10 north of Kāeo; and the Rawene/Kohukohu Ferry on the Kohukohu side of the Hokianga Harbour.
Wednesday morning had seen the highest turnaround rate at any of the checkpoints TTBC had operated during the pandemic, Taipari said.
"That's great, it's what we want. We were hard on Auckland, we were hard on Te Hana, and we cannot be slack."
The majority of people were attempting to travel to their workplaces south of the border.
People needing to cross the alert level boundary must have evidence to show their travel was for essential purposes but were not required to provide evidence of a recent test.
A formal business travel document was not required but a letter from an employer confirming place of work and need to travel was recommended by the Ministry of Health.
Taipari believed the tough borders had helped prevent Covid from spreading further in Northland, despite active cases having been in the region for the past three weeks.
"Everything's been contained. We only went to level three because of the unknown links of the two cases in the Te Hiku community," he said.
Kāeo Four Square owner Hitendra Patel said customers on the northern side of the bridge were disappointed they couldn't do their shopping in town. They would now have to drive to Mangonui or Coopers Beach for their essentials, he said.
Customers south of the bridge, which included all of Kāeo township, could still go shopping under the usual level 2 rules.
He kept the store open until 9pm on Monday, two hours longer than usual, to give residents further north a chance to stock up.
''I think people are not happy. It's a disruption to their lifestyle. But I think they will have to get used to it."
Patel hoped the affected areas would return swiftly to level 2.
Far North Mayor John Carter acknowledged that there was some confusion around the border.
He said police and health teams were working out what is practical and the public would be informed once details are clearer.
Meanwhile people were accepting of the level change, and vaccination as well as testing had ramped up, the mayor reported.
"We are encouraging people to step up and look after their whānau.
"There is growing concern that the virus might be spreading and there is concern for people who had to shut their businesses."
Carter thanked the two people who had tested positive for being "hugely cooperative".
Both Kāeo School and Whangaroa College had been designated as alert level 3 despite their locations falling outside of the locked-down area.
Kāeo School principal Paul Barker supported the decision as the 152 students lived on either side of the boundary.
"It's a really sensible way to approach it. It means we can transition to distance learning for all of our students rather than just managing the change for some."
Children of essential workers were still able to attend school, he said.
"We are beautifully supported by our community. Everyone is always entirely supportive of school-minded decisions like this."
Barker hoped Monday would bring a shift to alert level 2 and a return to school for students.
"To get there and to stop this happening again, we need to get vaccinated...Christmas is coming and Auckland will eventually open up and we know all the cars come north for summer," he said.
Whangaroa College principal Jack Anderson posted on the school's Facebook page to say they would be operating under alert level 3 conditions from Thursday until further notice.
"Our main priority at this stage is to provide onsite learning opportunities for YR [Year] 11 - 13 students to prepare for exams and this is best delivered face to face."
"Therefore, learning bubbles will be established to accommodate their learning at school," the post read.
To achieve this, a "special" bus run will transport senior students on the northern side of the Kāeo Bridge on SH1. While a normal bus services will transport senior college students on the southern side of the bridge to school.
"Please remind your children aged 12 and above they need to wear and supply their own face covering, as this is a requirement for them to board the bus. If you are sick then please stay at home."
Students in Year seven to 10 will learn from home, Anderson wrote.
"Thank you all for your continued support as we work our way through these challenging times."
There were no new cases of Covid-19 reported in Northland on Wednesday.
Northland DHB carried out 1215 tests throughout Northland on Tuesday and 1464 vaccinations were given, including 449 first doses.
Eighty per cent of Northlanders have now had their first dose, and 65 per cent fully vaccinated.
"There are plenty of opportunities to be both tested and vaccinated," director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at the press conference today.
Northland DHB urged those who live in or around Taipa, Kaingaroa, Awanui and Kaitaia and have had Covid-19 symptoms in the last couple of weeks - especially around Labour weekend - to get tested as soon as possible.