An eastern Bay of Plenty iwi has announced it will enforce 24-hour a day manned closure of its borders to all outsiders, in an effort to protect its vulnerable community from Covid-19.
In a post on the Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Facebook page last night, iwi leader Rawiri Waititi announced no one outside of the about 1000 residents would be allowed to enter the territory from midnight March 25 for two months.
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Waititi said campers including campervans, tourists, outside fishermen, cyclists and holiday makers would all be barred from passing the territory borders until at least May 25 - when the restrictions would be reassessed.
Teams of five of six community members will man the western territory border at Hawai, and the eastern border at Potaka 24 hours a day.
"In light of the pandemic Covid-19 plaguing the country and the world we have had to take proactive measures to protect our most vulnerable, our iwi and our elderly," Waititi said.
"No one is allowed in our iwi borders until the rāhui has been lifted. What we want is to mitigate the spread of the virus within the iwi.
"The cost of death for our iwi will be catastrophic. Māori are already disproportionately marginalised when it comes to health care. We here on the coast because of our geographical isolation are more at risk."
Waititi said about 200 residents of the 1000-strong community were aged over 65 years, and the priority was keeping them safe.
Couriers and trucks bringing food, medical and other supplies would be excluded from the border closure, but would be instructed to interact with as few Te Whānau-ā-Apanui residents as possible while dropping off cargo.
Fellow leader Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Louis Rapihana told the Herald they had advised all the 65-plus residents to stay in their homes for the time being.
"This is about protecting our most vulnerable people, the people over 65 and also our children who live on the coast," Rapihana said.
"All of our Pakeke, all our people over 65, have been instructed to not leave their home. We are going to be monitoring our elderly and see what services and essentials they need there, and do pick-ups and drop-offs at their door so they don't have to come out."
There is also a dispensation for Te Whānau-ā-Apanui residents who have to work outside the iwi territory border in the Opotiki District.
Rapihana said those residents who had to leave the Te Whānau-ā-Apanui border would have to continuously check in with the iwi leadership to report how they were feeling.
"They'll be allowed back in, but if they get home they will have to self-isolate and contact our doctor on the coast," Rapihana said.
"It's about monitoring our own people."
All marae in the iwi territory will also be closed from now on.
Waititi also outlined in the video that an iwi strategy was in place including action plans, an iwi response, a medical response, an industry response, and a police response.
Iwi will be notified of the plans regularly on the Te Whānau-ā-Apanui social media platforms.
"This is not a time for egos, and/or aggros. This virus Covid-19 is very real, can be lethal, and there is no immunisation against it," Waititi said.
"Please respect this hard course of action. Look after yourselves. Look after one another."