Empty houses in Tūrangi are filling up, and residents fear holiday home owners will bring Covid-19 with them.

Located on the southern shores of Lake Taupō, pockets of the small town are at an estimated summer population level.

Bach owners are risking prosecution under the new Civil Defence Emergency Management Act by flouting the law and driving undetected through the cover of darkness to arrive at their holiday home.

In the light of day, the high numbers of visitors makes them highly visible to permanent residents who hold concerns for the wellness of the resident population.

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Motutere resident Aroha French is concerned about her 80-year-old aunty who lives at Motuoapa, a popular spot for bach owners. She is concerned about community members who are vulnerable because of an underlying health condition.

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She has also heard from Kuratau residents that their neighbourhood is also filling up with visitors.

"You are not meant to be travelling around at the moment. My daughter is going through the virus in England at the moment. She told me that the number of people that have died from this disease in England is equivalent to the population of Tūrangi. I think we need to wake up."

Ms French has been in touch with the local police, in a bid to work with them. A sign has been put up on the road near the Korohe Marae asking visitors to keep out, due to Covid-19.

Tūrangi residents are keen to keep newly resident holiday home owners away from the old and the vulnerable. Photo / Supplied
Tūrangi residents are keen to keep newly resident holiday home owners away from the old and the vulnerable. Photo / Supplied

"We get lots of tourists. Before they come down here we want them to have a think. We are here. We are vulnerable. We just want to make people aware."

She urges residents in the Tūrangi area to dob new arrivals in, to make contact with them and ask them to isolate themselves.

"Tūrangi is a caring community. I will be asking new arrivals if I can do their shopping for them, to keep them away from the supermarket."

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Ms French says her message to Tūrangi holiday home owners is simple: "Don't come to your holiday home at this time."

How to keep holiday home owners away was discussed by Taupō District Council yesterday, said councillor and Motuoapa resident John Mack. His concern is that people travelling from an infected area will bring Covid-19 into Tūrangi.

He is also worried about services coping in the event there is a Covid-19 outbreak, with an inflated local population to contend with and Tūrangi being miles from the nearest hospital.

Tūrangi social media users had discussed the possibility of road blocks. Mr Mack said considering there was a civil emergency he would have been in favour of road blocks, but actually blocking the road was not an option.

"When you get down to the nitty gritty of the law, the police do not have the power to turn a motorist around and make them drive home. When they get to their holiday home, if you dob them in, the police will visit but are focused on an education role."

Mr Mack says new arrivals in the Tūrangi area should expect a visit from the police.

"For those considering driving from their permanent home to Tūrangi, why would you want to go on holiday now? Stay at home."

Tūrangi-Tongariro ward councillor John Mack. Photo / Supplied
Tūrangi-Tongariro ward councillor John Mack. Photo / Supplied

Information from the police media centre this morning was that police will be deploying checkpoints at a number of locations, in collaboration with local authorities and Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups.

A police spokesperson said, "Our primary focus will be on reminding people if you don't have to travel, then please don't.

"It's simple - travelling to and from different towns and cities risks spreading Covid-19, and puts lives at risk. Travelling to the bach for a holiday is not essential travel and it is not permitted."

The spokesperson said the police's first step will be to educate, but if people continue to break the rules, police will use their discretion to warn people, or if necessary, they could be arrested.

It is understood at least nine road checkpoints will be in place around the Taupō District today.

Reporting Information

Dial the non-emergency police number 105, or use the online form www.police.govt.nz/105support.