Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira is calling for iwi-run road checkpoints to stay in place even after the level 4 lockdown ends at 11.59pm on Monday.
A number of roadblocks continue to operate around Northland under the mantle of Harawira's Tai Tokerau Border Control. Some, such as the checkpoints in Kaikohe and Waitangi, operate daily while others, including one on the Hokianga ferry, are activated when the risk of illegal travel is highest.
A drop to alert level 3 will mean an easing in travel restrictions but Harawira is calling on the checkpoints to stay until the Covid-19 crisis is over.
''While Tai Tokerau supported the decision to lock the nation down at level 4 a month ago, it's clear we're not ready to open the roads just yet,'' he said.
''The checkpoints engage with the public right across the north and they're talking to hundreds of people every day, getting feedback on how Covid-19 impacts their lives. And the word they are getting from whānau is almost universal – thank you for keeping our communities protected, and for keeping our kaumātua and kuia safe.''
Northland MP Matt King, on the other hand, says the checkpoints are run by ''vigilantes'' and has urged police to enforce the law and shut them down.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said police did not encourage Covid-19 checkpoints in communities, and police were making sure any checkpoints were not preventing any lawful use of the road.
If those checkpoints persisted in vulnerable communities, they would be operated by police alongside community members, he said.
Harawira, however, is backed by many Northland Māori leaders.
Harry Burkhardt, who chairs Ngāti Kuri and the Tai Tokerau Iwi Chairs forum, said key community leaders and kaumātua believed they were not yet safe and it was critical to keep the checkpoints going.
The roadblocks also have firm backing from Northland's biggest iwi, Ngāpuhi, with interim chief executive Te Rōpu Poa saying the rūnanga hoped to keep the Kaikohe checkpoint going until alert level 2 was reached.
Harawira said the role of Tai Tokerau Border Control was to ''protect the people of Tai Tokerau, Māori and Pākehā, from the devastating impact of Covid-19 by stopping people and turning back those who pose a threat to the health and wellbeing of the people of the north''.
Earlier Assistant Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha conceded the blockades were technically illegal but police were working with communities across the country in unprecedented times to restrict the spread of the virus.
■ Under level 3 you are permitted to drive to recreational areas such as parks or beaches, but it must be your nearest park or beach, not your favourite. Travel between regions is still banned except for essential purposes.