Pokeno residents forced to travel 40km for groceries after being denied access to their closest supermarket say a new one in their town can't come soon enough.
Residents in both Pokeno and Tuakau are feeling the full effect of living in the Waikato fringe as they enjoy the freedoms of alert level 2 while their workplaces and schools remain under the tighter level 3 restrictions.
These north Waikato residents - whose towns were re classed from being in the Auckland region to the Waikato region in 2010 - are being turned away at police checkpoints and told they cannot access their closest large supermarket 15km away in Pukekohe, forcing many to travel 41km up the Waikato Expressway to Countdown Huntly.
The Government's Unite Against Covid-19 helpline advised residents who lived in level 2 areas such as Tuakau and Pokeno that they had to shop in the Waikato while Auckland remained under alert level 3.
But the town's first supermarket is a step closer, with Countdown confirming the walls of the Pokeno store are already up and it should be open before the end of the year.
"We know this will be very welcome news for Pokeno customers who currently rely on our Pukekohe supermarket and haven't been able to travel there during alert level 3,"
Countdown head of property Matt Grainger said.
The new store was expected to create around 80 local jobs and these would be advertised two months prior to opening.
Pokeno community board chairman Ric Odom said the current circumstances highlighted just how much the town needed its own supermarket.
While Pokeno residents felt a little more fortunate than their cousins north of the Bombays they were still hugely affected due to the town's close proximity to Auckland, he said.
Odom was among the residents who had travelled to Huntly to the supermarket at the weekend. Others were also travelling to Thames or Hamilton to shop at Pak n' Save, he said.
The only other closer level 3 options available them to at the moment are the superette in Pokeno, SuperValue in Tuakau which is 8.6km away and Four Square in Te Kauwhata 24km away.
"We are not in the Auckland area because we are right up adjacent to it; we are absolutely affected by what's going on. It's kind of the twixt in between - we have the comparative freedom of level 2 but still have many of the same restrictions under level 3 because we can't get to places we would normally get to - well not easily."
Residents were also facing heavy delays at the checkpoints to get to and from their Auckland workplaces.
One person expressed their frustration on social media that they were able to travel to Pukekohe to work but not to the supermarket to buy food.
Another person questioned whether it made sense for people living in such close proximity to Auckland to suddenly be shopping in places they usually wouldn't go.
Meanwhile despite being located in level 2, Pokeno School, Bombay School and Tuakau School have all reverted back to operating under level 3 conditions due to the large number of staff and children that live in the Auckland boundary and can't travel in.
Pokeno School had closed due to the large number of staff - 13 including nine teachers - who lived in the Auckland border and weren't allowed to travel in, making it difficult for the school to run, a post on the school's Facebook page said.