Police are cracking down on people flouting lockdown rules and trying to get away for Easter stopping and turning motorists around this morning.

In the Tasman district south of Murchison police stopped eight groups of travellers who were travelling north for the Easter break and turned them back to Christchurch.

Meanwhile in Auckland, police were stopping all cars entering and exiting Auckland's Southern Motorway in an early bid to catch people flouting lockdown rules and educate others on where they can and can't go over Easter.

A police roadblock on State Highway 2 at Paeroa to stop people trying to travel to holiday spots in the Coromandel. Photo / Alan Gibson
A police roadblock on State Highway 2 at Paeroa to stop people trying to travel to holiday spots in the Coromandel. Photo / Alan Gibson

Officers set up checkpoints on both sides of the Ellerslie motorway interchange.

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"They are checking with every driver before they enter to the motorway to ensure they are doing essential travel," one motorist told the Herald.

"They also appear to be checking vehicles for any sign people have packed to leave the city for the four-day Easter weekend.

Police out in force at a checkpoint on State Highway 1 at Otaki. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police out in force at a checkpoint on State Highway 1 at Otaki. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"Several motorists are being pulled over for suspected rule breaches."

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The police presence and checkpoints would remain across the Tasman district over the Easter break too, and anyone attempting "non-essential travel" would be turned around.

"Travelling to and from different towns and cities risks spreading Covid-19, and puts lives at risk," a police spokesperson said.

"Travelling to the bach for a holiday is not essential travel and it is not permitted."

Officers would first try to educate motorists, but if people continued to ignore the rules police would issues warnings and if necessary arrest people.

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Yesterday Police Commissioner Andrew Coster announced they were ramping up efforts to stop anyone who might try to break lockdown rules by heading away for the long weekend.

Checkpoints will be set up around a number of locations including popular holiday spots and arterial roads near them.

A police checkpoint State Highway 2 at Kopu, near Thames. Photo / Alan Gibson
A police checkpoint State Highway 2 at Kopu, near Thames. Photo / Alan Gibson

Coster said the measures would help ensure people were aware of lockdown requirements - that if you were not out for an "essential" purpose, then you should be at home.

"We know many New Zealanders may have been planning to catch up with friends and family this weekend or travel to traditional holiday destinations, but we urge anyone who was planning to do this - please change your plans and stay home," he said.

"To help ensure people know about the Health Act restrictions, police will be out and about checking that people are travelling for essential purposes only."

Such purposes include if you are heading out to get food items, medical supplies, for medical appointments, or if you are an essential worker.

The Coromandel is popular with Aucklanders at Easter. Photo / Alan Gibson
The Coromandel is popular with Aucklanders at Easter. Photo / Alan Gibson

For the first time ever, the AA is urging its members not to get behind the wheel this Easter.

"It may seem like a surprising message for the Automobile Association to be asking people not to drive unless you absolutely have to but it's a sign of the unprecedented times we are currently in," said AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon.

"We're adding our voice to the authorities and reminding everyone to not be tempted to travel or visit family or friends this weekend.

Motorists pass through a check point on State highway 1 near Waipu. Photo / Bret Phibbs
Motorists pass through a check point on State highway 1 near Waipu. Photo / Bret Phibbs

"Unless you are making an essential trip like for food or medical supplies you shouldn't be on the roads.

"People with young children in particular will be wanting to still have some Easter fun, so try an Easter egg hunt around the house, or doing some of the online activities that are out there. The key thing is keep it close to home."

While the volume of traffic on the roads has dropped enormously during the lockdown there have still been eight fatal crashes during the period.

"Just because the roads are quiet doesn't mean all the risks are gone," Noon said.

"People are still needing to make some essential driving trips and still need to keep safety in mind."

Maritime New Zealand also warned boaties not to breach the lockdown rules this weekend.

"We know Easter is a time when people usually travel, get outdoors, go to beaches and get out their boats, kayaks and other watercraft," said Maritime NZ deputy director Sharyn Forsyth

"But this Easter, for the safety of everyone, we just cannot do those things, as boating is not permitted at Covid-19 alert level 4.

"Staying home over the long weekend also gives an opportunity to catch up on some of those jobs that we might have put off.

"For example, pulling out all of our dive gear and checking that it's shipshape, or taking everything out of the boat that's in the backyard or shed and making sure lifejackets, communications equipment and other gear is still working properly.

"It's also a good chance to perhaps do some maintenance on the boat, kayak or other watercraft."

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