Northlanders are among the best in the country at following the lockdown's 'stay home, stay safe' mantra, Google mobility data has revealed.

The data, which comes from tracking cellphone locations, shows a dramatic decline in New Zealanders' movements on March 25, the day Covid-19 alert level 4 restrictions came into force.

The figures indicate a spike in Northlanders' movements as they rushed to the shops to stock up before the lockdown, but after that trips to retail and recreation facilities plummeted by 93 per cent — ahead of the national average of 90 per cent.

The normally teeming State Highway 1/Maunu Rd intersection in Whangārei is all but deserted during the lockdown. Photo / Michael Cunningham
The normally teeming State Highway 1/Maunu Rd intersection in Whangārei is all but deserted during the lockdown. Photo / Michael Cunningham

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In the first week of lockdown, the most recent figures available, Northlanders topped the country with the biggest decline in people visiting parks (87 per cent). In the same period Northland was equal second (beaten only by Otago) for the proportion of people staying home.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

The data does come with some caveats, however. It is based on data from people who have opted-in to 'location history' on their phone's Google account so it may not be representative of New Zealanders as a whole.

Also, caution is required when comparing rural and urban areas. Far-flung Northlanders may be more likely to shun parks during the lockdown, for example, because they have fewer parks within walking distance.

All the same, an analysis in online news platform The Spinoff said Northland ''deserves a gold star for restraint as it led the country in its shunning of parks'' and was also ''among the most diligent avoiders of retail and recreation''.

Another factor may be roadblocks around Northland discouraging unnecessary travel.

Some have been set up by police but most are run by iwi groups or local residents.

A quiet main street in Kerikeri during the lockdown. Photo / Peter de Graaf
A quiet main street in Kerikeri during the lockdown. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Far North Mayor John Carter said he was proud of Northlanders' response to the lockdown.

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''It's a real credit to iwi and the police, and the way in which they've worked together to educate the whole community. They've done a bloody good job.''

Northland's top cop, Superintendent Tony Hill, said he couldn't comment on how Northland compared to other parts of the country, but it backed up what police were seeing on the streets.

''At checkpoints around the region police are seeing decreasing numbers all the time of people travelling around in breach of the Covid-19 guidelines, which is really encouraging,'' he said.

''What we're seeing in Northland is a lot of people who are determined to make this work, so we get through it in as short a time as possible.''

Northland MP Matt King said the Google data didn't gel with what he was seeing, but if it was accurate it was heartening.

According to Google the mobility data cannot be used to identify the movements of individual users, only overall movements in an entire region.

The company said it has chosen categories that were useful for assessing social distancing efforts as well as access to essential services.

■ Go to google.com/covid19/mobility to check out the data for yourself.