As predicted, Northland will move into the new traffic light system at red and community leaders are reiterating calls for more people to be vaccinated in order to enjoy greater freedom.
Red light settings include Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts.
The rest of the North Island and the entire South Island will move in at orange.
The new system for the whole country will start at 11.59pm on Thursday
Cabinet will review settings and provide an update on Monday, December 13. The next update by ministers will be on Monday, January 17, and will continue on a fortnightly basis.
The Government's decision on the traffic light system comes as a new variant of Covid-19 gets closer to our doorstep - after confirmation that the potentially more infectious Omicron strain of the virus has reached Australia overnight.
In Northland, a Restaurateur is copping flak from people including his customers accusing him of segregation by not allowing unvaccinated people to dine-in from this Friday.
Lloyd Rooney of the Jetson Group that owns The Cove, Quay, Loco, No 8 in Whangārei and The Dune in Mangawhai, said people must understand it was the Government that set the rules, not him.
"Some people would rather I pay a fine by allowing unvaccinated people, which is ridiculous. I am surprised there are people who don't realise that the Government sets the rule and I have no choice."
Rooney said he could not afford not to open his businesses as it cost him about $180,000 a fortnight in salaries for around 140 staff.
He is supporting the Government's decision to put Northland in red.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said the government's decision to put Northland in red didn't come as a surprise and urged as many people as possible to get vaccinated if they were to attend events.
"We already have cases up here and my fear is as borders open, there'll be more cases up here."
Her Far North counterpart John Carter echoed similar sentiments, saying it was pleasing to see a majority of people following the rules around staying safe from the deadly virus.
"The most important thing is we all work together to make sure the visitors and our community are safe. A good thing is people are being advised of the health risks and are taking all the necessary precautions."
Tai Tokerau Border Control founder Hone Harawira questioned the logic behind introducing a traffic light system when alert levels would have sufficed.
"Why introduce a system that nobody up here understands. Why is Auckland in red with hundreds of cases every day and Northland in red and they are going to open the borders?"
Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said he was not surprised that Northland will move into the Red light system, given the region's low vaccination rates.
However, Smith said, if people wanted the region to move into the Orange light after December 13, they should get vaccinated, if they haven't already, and encourage those they know who haven't been vaccinated to do so.
''I believe in individual personal responsibility, and every person has the responsibility to do their best for the whole community. And that means taking up the opportunity to get vaccinated if you are able to.
"Sometimes people do things for the good of their community even if they are not really that interested in it themselves - you have to take the hit for everybody else.''
Smith said looking forward he wanted further clarity on what the Red Light meant for council facilities.
''For example there's nothing in there about our public swimming pool. Last Friday the Government told us that how it related to swimming pools was ... still to be confirmed.
Our outdoor swimming pool is very popular, and in summer it's very much in demand, so it would be good to know how it will impact on the pools.''
He said the good news was that from December 15 people from Northland could drive to, or through Auckland, without a border check, and people from elsewhere could drive into Northland, which would be good for business.
NorthChamber chief executive Stephen Smith said for the hospitality sector, the red light system was more draconian than the alert level 2 and that there was a hell of a lot of confusion around the new system by a majority of business owners.
"Businesses need to make sure they are compliant with the health and safety and the risk assessments and once they do that, they'll be able to better understand the traffic light system."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced a new transition payment would be made available for affected businesses in Auckland, Waikato and Northland.
This new payment would acknowledge restrictions companies had faced under the higher alert levels.
"The one-off transition payment will be activated through the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) system criteria and be available on December 10," Robertson said.
Kaitaia Business Association chairwoman Andrea Panther said it was good news that Aucklanders would be able to visit the Far North under the traffic light system, but not everybody would be happy about any influx of Aucklanders.
Panther said she was concerned about the 'unfairness' of the Red Light system on some businesses, such as hairdressers, barbers, masseuses and beauty parlour.
''It doesn't seem fair that those businesses will have to use the vaccine passport system and can only have vaccinated people in there, whereas places like dentists don't. Those businesses can only operate under alert level 2, so they've had some of the biggest impact from the lockdowns and been locked down longest.''
She said there could be as much as 40 per cent of residents in and around Kaitaia who will not get vaccinated and that is a big slice of customers from those businesses.
Panther said Kaitaia businesses would welcome Aucklanders to the town once the border came down, but there were already some areas that said they would block people, including locals, from going there over the summer to prevent the spread of Covid.
Last week, Te Whānau Moana o Karikari hapū, with the support of Ngāti Kahu iwi, decided to keep the Maitai Bay Campground on the Karikari Peninsula shut over the Christmas holiday period to protect local residents.
Panther said locals could fully understand those communities that wanted to be safe.
''There will be other iwi and hapu who do the same. I can understand it, but it's really sad for us locals too, as they are some of our favourite places too.
''Around 10 per cent of Aucklanders aren't vaccinated, so that's more than 100,000 people and if they all came north we could be in real trouble.''
She said it was a delicate, and possibly a rough, balance of keeping locals safe and keeping Covid out and her advice to people was: "just hang in there.''
Under all traffic light settings, events, restaurants, bars, gyms and hairdressers are expected to be able to remain open.
That is, provided they use a vaccine pass to ensure only vaccinated people are using their services.
Only under the red setting do events and gyms become limited as they have to restrict the number of people in attendance to 100 or fewer, while hairdressers also have to maintain stricter public health measures.
For those not using vaccine passes, close-proximity businesses - such as hairdressers - are not able to operate. In gatherings allowed numbers are limited to 25.
There were 182 cases yesterday — 167 in Auckland, 10 in Waikato, and five in Northland.
Two of Northland's new cases were announced on Sunday and were being officially added to the case tally yesterday.
The remainder are made up of two cases in Kawakawa and one in the Far North. These three cases are linked to existing cases.
An unexpected detection of the virus was picked up in a wastewater sample taken in Opononi last week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said red provided extra protections against Covid-19 such as requiring both vaccine passes and some capacity limits in the most-high risk settings.
"As we see what happens to cases and vaccination levels we can look to move regions down to orange over time, where there are no gathering limits for those who are using vaccine passes."