Ohakune locals are fuming over the news that three people snuck onto the local ski field, despite travelling from Auckland – which is currently under Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown.
The three men were arrested in the small ski-town on Wednesday after Tūroa ski field operators became suspicious of the documents they used to get a ski pass.
Inspector Nigel Allan, the police area commander for Whanganui Ruapehu, said two 23-year-olds and an 18-year-old have been charged with failing to comply with a directions/restriction/prohibition and taking/obtaining/using a document for pecuniary advantage.
They will all appear in the Auckland District Court next week.
The three men travelled from Auckland legally on their valid essential workers permits – but it's their trip up the mountain which has locals concerned.
Isobel May, the owner of local café Thorn, says the breach is "the talk of the town".
"Every second person is asking about it. I just went to the supermarket and everyone was saying 'oh my god did you see the news?'"
She says the three men abused their privileges as essential workers.
"They got this travel exemption and they just abused it. They used their rights when they shouldn't have," she told the Herald.
May is worried it could set a poor example and says the rules should be stricter so other people can't break them so easily.
"If these guys can get away with it, I'm worried it could set an example – of course people will be tempted [to leave Auckland].
"I think people are angry – we don't have any Covid so there's this sense of, keep it up there, we don't want it."
Kevin Deadman, owner and operator of Ruapehu Mountain Motel and Lodge, has a similar sentiment.
He says the lockdown has been crippling for the tourist town, which "only survives on Auckland's excess money" and if the three men create locations of interest, it could be disastrous.
"They have mucked it up for everyone – if there are locations of interest, then we have cases here and we could all be locked down past Christmas."
Local iwi Ngati Rangi and Uenuku say the actions of these men are highly offensive.
"We are trying to keep our communities safe. Now is not the time to go for a joyride," said Ngati Rangi deputy chairman Whetu Moataane.
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron says there is zero tolerance for any rule-breakers, and the three men should be prosecuted.
"It is very disappointing that a minority of people think it is okay to do something like this, but they should note that there are systems and processes in place that mean they are very likely to be found out and charged."
The risk to Ohakune is close to zero, according to Whanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson.
"We have tested the three people involved and all have tested negative. People can be reassured that there is no risk to the community from this breach," he said.
However, Ohakune locals are encouraged to monitor themselves and get tested if they develop any cold or flu symptoms.
Auckland remains under alert level 4 — the most stringent Covid-19 lockdown — until at least next week, while the rest of New Zealand is in alert level 2.
The Herald has approached Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which operates the ski field, for comment.