Food parcels will be handed at Port Waikato after residents found themselves facing a 160km round trip on a dangerous road to get supplies after a surprise lockdown border change.
The remote seaside north Waikato settlement unexpectedly found itself cut off from its nearest town, Tuakau, yesterday afternoon when police announced a new checkpoint at the intersection of Port Waikato-Tuakau Bridge Rd and Klondyke Rd.
Tuakau is just 30km from the settlement, and is the nearest town for food, petrol and medical supplies.
Instead the 400 residents were suddenly expected to travel two and a half hours to Te Kauwhata or Huntly on a single-lane gravel road, with washouts and no cellphone coverage.
Locals say the road is so dangerous it is only suitable for farm vehicles or stock trucks.
Late this morning the Waikato District mayor Allan Samson called for authorities to move the alert level boundary so that the settlement's 400 residents could travel to Tuakau.
But this afternoon the Covid Response team acknowledged the impact the border change posed to Port Waikato residents and announced those living in the settlement would be given food parcels.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Covid-19 response group deputy chief executive Cheryl Barnes said people living in Port Waikato and caught up in the Auckland alert level 3 cordon would be supported by government agencies and Waikato Tainui, to make sure their needs were met over the coming days.
"We acknowledge the inconvenience to the community," said Barnes.
"After talking to the community, MSD has agreed to cover the cost of food parcels, with around one week's worth of supplies."
Barnes said in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep the public safe, the boundary was set up to capture as much of the at-risk population as possible.
Authorities tried hard to limit the number of people affected, she said.
Earlier residents despaired at being cut off, with many turned back at the new police checkpoint when heading to work this morning.
The president of the Port Waikato Residents and Ratepayers' Association, Leah Fry, said the community, which has a large aging population, was cut off with the only road out, a one-lane shingle bullock track, barely passable in places by washouts.
"It's not a nice bit of road to drive. A lot of people won't be able to drive it. They'll be too scared to drive it so they're trapped. Port Waikato is cut off. We have no way out unless you're brave and hardy."
Fry said the community had one dairy, with no petrol station.
Local National MP Andrew Bayly was stunned by the development, saying it was wrong and promising to do whatever it took to overturn the decision.