South Island locals are pleading with Aucklanders to take alert level 4 rules seriously and avoid travelling out of the region during lockdown.
A Wānaka resident says she got a booking for her Airbnb property from an Auckland family on Wednesday evening, the first day of lockdown. When she turned them down and pointed out they were not meant to be travelling away from home, they told her their flight was confirmed and they would be arriving in Wānaka the following day.
Natasha Dawes turned down the booking and says the family got "quite upset" with her. After she posted about it to the local Facebook group, she assumes someone who knows them sent them a screenshot of her post as, she says, they started sending her "offensive messages".
"I actually reported them," she told the Herald. "I felt it was the only responsible thing to do. I know there would be plenty of other Airbnb options in Wānaka that people may not ask the right questions and that would've allowed them to travel. It was just really irresponsible of them."
Dawes took to the local community page on Facebook to ask Wānaka not to "get complacent".
"Just had someone call trying to book my Airbnb starting tomorrow," she posted on Wednesday evening. "I asked them where they are at moment as they not supposed to be moving around as we entered level 4 lockdown last night. They are in Auckland. Have flights booked tomorrow to Queenstown and plan to stay in Wānaka. They said their flights are definitely going. They usually spend half of each week in Auckland for their kids schooling and half the week living in Wānaka at one of the resorts (which closed last night) for kids ski racing during winter. So theoretically they can do it - as everyone has 48 hours to return to where they live."
Dawes told the Herald she worries other people renting out properties will not ask the questions and figure out the people renting them should not be visiting the town.
"Covid isn't a joke," she said. "I would hope people think of the bigger picture and respect that any non-essential movement in lockdown 4 is unacceptable. They could spread it. They could pick it up themselves on the way. Just stay home," she said.
She reported the case to police as a lockdown breach and hopes others would have done the same as keeping the community safe is key to getting out of lockdown.
"The reason I put the post on local Facebook page is far too many people are complacent down here and think they are so far removed from Auckland there is little risk here," she said.
"I wanted to show them how easy it seemingly is for people in affected areas to just enter. And to hopefully incite more handwashing, mask wearing and care down here. People need to take this more seriously.
"I seriously only did [report them] because I thought - what if they are the one with Covid who comes to wanaka and starts it here?"
Dawes believes that there is a "massive loophole" in the lockdown rules and many people attempt to take advantage of it.
"All the empty holiday homes in Wanaka and Queenstown - they get flocked to when lockdowns happen.
"People should not just be allowed to move for leisure and the convenience of going to their preferred location. Or what is the point of lockdown?"
Police confirmed it had received a report yesterday "of someone possibly planning to breach the Covid-19 alert level 4 restrictions".
Travel allowed only for 'essential reasons' or to return home
A spokesperson for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) clarified that, under alert level 4 rules, "people should only be travelling for the purposes of returning home or essential reasons".
"We need everyone's support to protect New Zealand and eliminate Covid-19. A travel window has been left open allowing people to return home, after this time additional measures may be put in place to ensure people are travelling only for essential reasons."
According to the spokesperson, under current restrictions, everyone "must now stay home and cannot travel domestically for any reason other than returning to your place of resident or for essential reasons, such as to get food or medicine, or to go to work if you are an alert level 4 worker".
New Zealanders away from home have until 11:59pm tonight to return home, with the exception of travel from Queenstown and on the Cook Strait ferry, which has an extra 24 hours until 11:59pm tomorrow.
Auckland lockdown exodus slammed as 'selfish, appalling'
Multiple people have reportedly left their homes in Auckland since alert level 4 began.
North of Auckland, Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai has hit out at Aucklanders who continue to drive north in an attempt to spend lockdown away from the city.
Mai said anecdotal evidence indicated Aucklanders had again headed north in droves before Tuesday night's level 4 Covid-19 lockdown.
"In the situation facing us, even one Aucklander is one too many," Mai said.
She said this placed Northlanders, in their home, at risk.
That was particularly the case with the more contagious Delta strain being confirmed in the first Devonport case, identified on Tuesday.
"Think again, this is our home, you stay in your home," Mai said.
"Clearly the cases [identified this week] are Auckland-based. People coming up here from Auckland may not even know they have been exposed to the virus before they left.
"I just hope nobody has come up here feeling sick. That's even worse."
Mai said the lockdown rules were there for a reason, to protect people and stop the spread of thee virus.
The group behind last year's Covid checkpoints says it counted as many as 500 cars an hour heading north on State Highway 1 on Tuesday evening.