An Auckland Transport worker who was spat at while working at the city's central Britomart station has spoken of the incident which has left him in self-isolation during the country's Covid-19 lockdown.
The man spoke to the Herald anonymously recalling that he was only just starting a shift and was boarding a Papakura service when the incident occurred yesterday.
"There was a couple already sitting on the train when we arrived," he said.
"So we approached them just to check they were essential workers or had a good reason to be on the public transport network.
"They were fairly evasive and came up with a couple of different stories, none of which were legitimate reasons for them to be on the network.
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"So we had a conversation with them and advised they would need to leave the service."
The man left first, with the woman initially refusing but then spitting as she left, he said.
The transport officer and the two colleagues he was with have all had to self-isolate as a precaution.
While it was sometimes part of the job dealing with difficult people, he had never been spat at before.
He said he will be tested for the virus this weekend.
"The majority of people we deal with are excellent, and there are no problems at all.
"A lot of people are actually thanking us for being out there. We certainly appreciate that."
His manager Steve Morgan told the Herald there had been cases where people had been spoken to by staff and that had increased in the past few days.
For example, there had been people trying to travel from Takanini or Henderson to do their shopping in the city "well outside their local area".
"Unfortunately, we are getting groups of kids who really shouldn't be breaking their bubble and we are having to send them home.
"We've been getting a huge amount of support from the police."
They had also been present on the train services last week, he said.
Morgan said their main message to the public was to remember to be kind.
Stay home, stay safe and leave the public transport for essential workers and those needing essential services, he said.
There are still 16,000 people using various forms of public transport across Auckland daily for legitimate reasons.
Police appealed to the public today to identify the couple involved in yesterday's incident saying they are "appalled" at this type of behaviour, especially in the current environment, and that it will not be tolerated.
Earlier this week a 25-year-old who allegedly spat at an Auckland Transport security guard was arrested shortly after in Mangere. The man was charged with common assault and wilful damage.
Yesterday AT chief executive Shane Ellison said this kind of behaviour was totally unacceptable.
"We have staff working day and night to keep public transport operating and it's distressing when they come under attack from members of the public," Ellison said.
"Our staff and contractors are out there in all weathers ensuring that essential workers can get to their jobs and we cannot tolerate this sort of behaviour. We are working with the police to ensure that our staff can do their job without being assaulted.
"It's quite disturbing that a few people are acting like idiots, we've been getting some great feedback about the efforts we have been making to get people around the city in these tough times but to have incidents like this is quite upsetting."
On Saturday afternoon, Auckland City Police said the behaviour would "not be tolerated".
They were seeking the public's help to identify two people following the incident.
"Police are appalled at this type of behaviour, especially in the current environment, which places essential workers at risk," a statement said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff added his voice to those denouncing the behaviour, yesterday saying it was not just disgusting but also dangerous.
"The individuals should face the full penalties under the law and I have no doubt that the police will be taking this matter very seriously," Goff said.
"Our thanks go to our essential transport staff and all of the key workers across Auckland and New Zealand who are working tirelessly at some risk to their personal safety to ensure that the services we all rely on can continue to function throughout the lockdown."