For decades Ohinemutu has welcomed thousands of visitors, including royalty, with open arms. But now they're not welcome. Residents talk to journalist Kelly Makiha about why they are being forced to take action to keep others out.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Rotorua dad gets creative with lockdown boredom busters
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Rotorua family court lawyers urge split parents to put differences aside
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Confirmed case in Rotorua Hospital and NZ State of Emergency
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Rotorua's congestion vanishes as lockdown begins
Rotorua's Ohinemutu village residents have sent a strong message to visitors and non-residents: keep out, you're not welcome.
The village is mostly a public place, but residents have put up signs asking visitors to stay away during the coronavirus lockdown.
The picturesque setting of the traditional Māori village on the shores of Lake Rotorua has long been a hot spot for visitors where they can see geothermal activity and a living Māori village.
Despite the lockdown, residents said visitors were still pouring into the village.
Inia Maxwell said he and his children, Maaka, 13, and Kahu-Tarena, 7, painted two signs near the junction of Ariariterangi, Tunohopu and Arataua Streets, near the heart of the village.
The signs read: "Ohinemutu is closed to all" and "Non-residents and tourists! Keep out".
Maxwell said Ohinemutu residents have opened their arms and hearts to visitors all their lives and they would again in the future. However, they were taking the lockdown seriously and asked non-residents to stay away and not use the village as a thoroughfare or a place to visit.
"We have been strict as down here. We don't want that transmission or it'll wipe out a generation."
Council can't explain gaps in meeting footage
'We're now in a completely different world': What the GFC tells us about future of house prices after Covid 19
Maxwell said it was a new way of life for villagers.
"In the pā, kids used to go between homes so it's been a big adjustment for our kids. So to see people who we don't know still walking around taking photos is frustrating."
He said it was well-documented tourists were high risk at the moment and residents were annoyed at the attitudes of some of the visitors they asked to leave.
"They were a bit snippy and asked if they were doing anything wrong. That started to irritate locals because they were answering back."
Maxwell said locals wanted to pass on the message in a friendly way and the signs appeared to be doing the trick.
"Ohinemutu is a welcoming place and it will be again."
Kahutapeka Kara Ututaonga said they put a sign on their fence as a "giggle" that read: "Trespassers will be boiled", making reference to the geothermal area.
"When me and my whānau were thinking about signs, we discussed the sign circulating on Facebook that says 'If you don't live here, f*** off' but we did not think that would be appropriate for our tamariki and kaumatua.
"We also discussed the famous Tūhoe sign that says 'trespassers will be eaten' but we wanted to come up with something uniquely Ohinemutu. The use of our ngāwhā as a deterrent came immediately to mind."
Resident Lani Kereopa posted on her Facebook page photos of visitors wandering around the church, cemetery areas and streets within the village.
"The main message I want to give to locals and tourists alike is while we understand that people are still allowed to go out for exercise, our own residents are barely leaving our homes and walking around the village out of respect for the lockdown and for the health and safety of each other and in particular our most vulnerable."
She said seeing strangers still walking around the village put a lot of unnecessary stress on whānau living in the village.
"We have a high population of over-60-year-olds in Ohinemutu and tangata whenua are more at risk than the general population with higher rates of underlying health conditions. We have a right to protect the health and wellbeing of our whānau and hapu, and ask that people respect that."
Howard Morrison jnr echoed the concerns.
He rattled off names of "precious" elders who lived on his street within 50m of each other whom they wanted to protect, including his mother, Lady Kuia Morrison, 82.
"A lot of locals have put their own signs up. We have just politely asked people not to come here at the moment.
"It's all about keeping them safe so just please stay away. The church is closed and there's nothing to see here anyway."
He said villagers were still walking around but were finding it hard not to embrace each other like they used to.
"Everyone's catching up from a distance every few days but a lot of people in the pā are hugging people so it's hard to get used to. We might have to have a national hug day once this is all over. But for now, it's all about looking after each other."