Police respect the intentions of a Northland group which wants to resurrect Covid-19 checkpoints on the region's key roads — but say checkpoints aren't needed as long as the country is in alert level 1.
Yesterday the iwi group behind last year's Covid-19 road blocks, Tai Tokerau Border Control, said it was planning to bring back checkpoints following a positive case in Northland of the South African variant.
Regional coordinator Rueben Taipari said the location and timing of checkpoints had yet to be decided, but the group had to act because the government wasn't doing enough to protect the vulnerable.
Taipari, of Ahipara, said the group met on Monday night to discuss the threat posed by the new community case.
"We've been in touch with the police, iwi and health authorities, and we intend standing up checkpoints in key points to protect our old people and everyone else in the North,'' he said.
"We're disappointed that government hasn't already initiated plans to protect kaumātua and kuia in the North and Māori people in general, who comprise some of the most at-risk groups to the latest virulent strain," Taipari said.
Nyze Porter, the group's logistics coordinator, said iwi were already taking steps in case the virus had spread.
''Our tangihanga are under review, our kōhanga may be closing, government departments are moving to protect their staff, iwi are initiating work-from-home strategies, and plans for Waitangi may have to be shelved, but the government is doing nothing to protect our most vulnerable whānau," she said.
Inspector Riki Whiu, acting district commander for Northland, said police had been advised of the group's plans to re-establish checkpoints.
''Police respect and recognise the good intentions of the group, however while New Zealand remains in alert level 1 police do not believe there is any requirement for checkpoints at this time. As such our expectation is that Covid checkpoints will not be operating,'' Whiu said.
''We're all coming to this kaupapa from the same place — out of a need to protect the most vulnerable in the community. As we have throughout the Covid-19 response, we continue to work with our partners which includes iwi,'' he said.
Whiu said Northlanders should continue to follow the advice of health professionals by staying home if unwell and seeking advice from a GP or Healthline about getting tested.
They should also sign in anywhere they visit using the Covid tracer app and turn on Bluetooth if possible.
Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira set up the self-declared Tai Tokerau Border Control during last year's nationwide lockdown, in response to motorists flouting the no-travel rules and what some Northland iwi saw as lax enforcement by the authorities.
Iwi-led checkpoints were set up at various locations including the Far North ''border'' on SH1 at Waiomio, Kaeo Hill, Kaikohe, Waitangi, Mangamuka Gorge, Ngataki, and Hokianga.
The checkpoints were highly controversial — former Northland MP Matt King called them illegal and demanded the police dismantle them — but they were also credited with reducing the spread of the virus in Northland and East Cape, where local iwi were the first to set up road blocks.
Police eventually joined forces with iwi volunteers at some checkpoints, though only until level 3 was lifted.