A Northland iwi which is a significant player in the region's accommodation sector is calling for the Auckland border to stay closed despite the effect of travel restrictions on its businesses.
Ngātiwai, a coastal Whangārei iwi, has found itself in something of a Catch-22 over the border because it owns the biggest hotel on the Tutukaka Coast, Oceans Tutukaka, as well as a large campground at Bland Bay.
However, Te Poari o Ngātiwai (Ngātiwai Trust Board) chairman Aperahama Kerepeti-Edwards said the iwi's first priority was the well-being of its people and the wider community — so he was calling on the government to keep the border closed until Māori vaccination rates in Tai Tokerau hit 90 per cent.
Kerepeti-Edwards welcomed the provision for double-vaxxed Aucklanders to come north, but he was concerned about how the travel requirements would be verified.
Anyone heading north out of Auckland from December 15 is supposed to be fully vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid in the previous 72 hours.
Kerepeti-Edwards said his understanding was there would be a heavy police presence at the border but they would only carry out spot checks due to the expected high volumes of traffic.
Ngātiwai kāinga (settlements) such as Matapōuri and Tutukaka were holiday hotspots likely to draw large numbers of people over summer, increasing the risk of spreading Covid-19.
He acknowledged lockdown had been tough on whānau in Auckland but urged the Government to work with iwi on ways of managing the influx of visitors and keeping people safe.
"We are willing to consider opening the border when the Government comes to the table to engage meaningfully with iwi of the North to plan a shared strategy," he said.
Kerepeti-Edwards said Covid restrictions had affected the iwi's tourism businesses but they had managed to get through the past two years thanks to the local market.
He didn't want to see that jeopardised by Northland having to go back into another full-scale lockdown.
Te Kahu o Taonui, a grouping of Northland iwi leaders, also opposes opening the border until Māori vaccination rates in Auckland and Northland reach 90 per cent.
According to the Ministry of Health, 58 per cent of Northland Māori have had both jabs and 74 per cent have had their first dose.