by Peter de Graaf
An iwi-led checkpoint at the entrance to Kaikohe is continuing to operate after the country's top cop said police would protect people's right to travel for legitimate purposes.
However, on Friday drivers were no longer being made to stop and anyone who stopped voluntarily was offered a leaflet with Covid-19 advice.
Kaikohe checkpoint co-ordinator Jay Hepi said his team had been working with local police and Far North area commander Riki Whiu from the outset.
''That's why we're still here,'' he said.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Iwi checkpoints lifted, but organisers vow to return if lockdown flouted
• Call for checkpoint reinforcements
• Covid-19 coronavirus: One Northland roadblock scrapped, tourists turned back at others
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Harawira says checkpoints need to stay
The checkpoint was allowed to stay as long as organisers worked with the police and followed their guidelines, Hepi said.
''They didn't want us to block the road so we allow people to travel through. Some go by, which is totally fine, but many people are willing to stop, and we give them information.''
From the start the checkpoint crew had waved through essential traffic and only stopped anyone who might have been travelling around in breach of the level 4 rules, he said.
Any negative reaction was online rather than from locals, who showed their appreciation daily with gifts of home baking.
Ngāpuhi defends Covid-19 checkpoints after shutdown call
MP calls on police to shut down 'vigilante' checkpoints
Northland MP Matt King has urged police to shut down ''vigilante'' checkpoints while his National colleagues have been calling on police to clarify their legality.
Police responded on Thursday with a statement saying they understood some small, isolated communities felt vulnerable to Covid-19 but they didn't encourage the public to run their own checkpoints.
''Where communities have determined to undertake checkpoints to prevent the spread of Covid-19, police is working with those communities and other agencies to ensure checkpoints are safe and not preventing lawful use of the road,'' police stated.
If checkpoints were deemed necessary they would be operated by police alongside community members, conducted safely according to police guidelines, guided by the current alert level, and would not restrict access for people moving through for legitimate purposes.
Police did not envisage a need for checkpoints at alert level 2.
Most of the iwi-run checkpoints around Northland operate under the banner of former MP Hone Harawira's ''Tai Tokerau Border Control''.
On Thursday Harawira challenged King to join him at the Kaikohe checkpoint to ''see for himself the support the checkpoints have''.
King told the Advocate he didn't see the point.
''My argument is they're illegal. I don't doubt they are well intentioned and there's some really good people on those checkpoints, but allowing civilians to set up road blocks sets a bad precedent.''
King said the police statement was a step in the right direction but he was still pushing for the checkpoints to be stopped altogether.
Iwi-led Covid-19 checkpoints have operated at various times at Waiomio, Mangamuka, Cable Bay, South Hokianga, the Hokianga ferry, Kaeo, Te Hapua and other locations, with Kaikohe and Waitangi proving the most controversial. Coastal communities have also blocked roads at locations such as Whananaki and Pataua.