Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira plans to set up ''medical checkpoints'' at the main entry points to the Far North as soon as today in a bid to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Tourists would be turned back from checkpoints which could be set up at Whakapara, on State Highway 1 north of Whangārei, and SH12 at Waipoua on the west coast.

He was awaiting medical advice on how to manage Far North residents who had recently returned from overseas or had contact with travellers.

''Internal checkpoints'' would follow, by the end of the week at the latest, at locations such as Pakaraka, Kaeo bridge and Awanui bridge.

Advertisement

READ MORE:
Coronavirus: New case of Covid-19 in Northland; region total now 2
No more Northland cases in 13 new positive Covid-19 cases
Thai students at Kerikeri High cleared of Covid-19 virus
Covid-19 testing stations to start in Northland

When Harawira announced his plans on Sunday he said was doing it because no one else was stepping up.

Since then the Government has raised its Covid-19 alert to Level 3 with Level 4 to follow tomorrow, though no official roadblocks are planned.

Harawira said he was still going ahead because he did not believe the Government would treat Tai Tokerau as a priority area.

''I'm not a medical expert but Lance [former Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan] has convinced me it is serious and we need to take every action possible to protect our people, especially our old people, Māori and Pākehā.''

The roads would not be blockaded — food and medical supplies would be allowed through — and he had notified police and local authorities.

O'Sullivan has described the stops as an "assessment checkpoint", telling One News it's an added layer of protection for vulnerable Northland communities.

The checkpoints would be manned initially by activists, who he said knew the value of discipline, and players in the Tai Tokerau Rugby League freed up by cancelled games.

Advertisement

They would receive some training from former military officers and would wear standard dress.

Harawira said he would be happy to have police at each checkpoint.

''This isn't a pitchfork exercise, this is serious. If we don't start seriously restricting people coming in to our territory our people will die. I'm talking about all people, not just Māori. If you're from here our job is to do what we can to protect your future.''

He said a lot of people were content to ''throw sticks at the Government for being too slow'' but that wouldn't fix the problem.

The Mana Movement founder said he was spurred to take action after a Ngāti Kahu leader stopped a bus full of tourists at Peria who weren't taking virus precautions, and his daughter was afraid to go into Pak'n'Save in Kaitaia because it was packed with overseas visitors he doubted had observed the 14-day self-isolation rule.

''I've been getting calls saying, 'What are you going to do about it?' Somebody has to step up, so it's me.''

Advertisement

He was also driven by the devastation wrought by the 1918 influenza pandemic, especially on Māori communities.

East Cape iwi Te Whānau-ā-Apanui said earlier this week they would close off its rohe to protect their old people.

With its larger area and multiple entry points, closing off the Far North would be far more difficult, Harawira said.

He hoped responsibility for the checkpoints could later be passed on to police and local authorities.

Mayor John Carter said in principle he backed any Covid-19 precautions but it had to be done correctly.

Harawira had assured him he was planning checkpoints rather than road blocks.

Advertisement

''Food and medical supplies have to come through, and there's all sorts of people we need to have come into our district to make sure it continues to function. It's more a matter of checking people have gone through the right process of isolating themselves and are informed about the need to stay 2m away from others,'' Carter said.

Harawira's plan would be one of the topics when he had a conference call with iwi leaders today.

If checkpoints went ahead it was unlikely council staff would assist. That role would be better filled by the Defence Force, he said. Police have been contacted for comment.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website