Ngāti Manawa has become the latest iwi to set up a checkpoint and restrict access to its lands for outsiders.

Forty volunteers will be overseeing the two checkpoints 24/7, with one set up at the Rangitaiki Bridge across from the Murupara Motor Camp and the other on Troutbeck Rd.

Anyone who is not a resident of the Murupara district will be turned back from the Ngati Manawa rohe. Photo / Charlotte Jones
Anyone who is not a resident of the Murupara district will be turned back from the Ngati Manawa rohe. Photo / Charlotte Jones

Project leader Leila Rewi said the iwi saw the need to create the checkpoints a week after lockdown came into effect after witnessing hunters and tourists frequently crossing their land to access Te Urewera.

"There is a checkpoint set up at Te Urewera too and we found they were hunting in between here and there," she said.

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"We still have people coming from Whakatāne and Rotorua. No one is staying home, no one is listening."

She said there were still those who went out for drives as though the lockdown had never happened.

The checkpoints have been a true community effort with an overseeing rōpū responsible for communications, monitoring and sourcing resources formed of Ngāti Manawa pakeke from each hapu marae as well as a police liaison, rangatahi and community representatives.

This is in addition to the volunteers manning the checkpoints.

Rewi said anyone who was not a resident of Murupara, Galatea, Rerewhakaaitu, Kaingaroa, Waiohau, Te Whaiti, Minginui or Ruatahuna would be asked to turn back.

The exception would be essential workers or those travelling to Murupara from Te Urewera for supplies.

"Legally we can't stop them, but we will be trying to educate them as they reach our checkpoints," she said.

"We still have people here travelling to the Pak 'n Saves in Whakatāne and Rotorua to do their shopping but we will be asking them to do their shopping here at the local Four Square because they risk bringing Covid-19 back from the supermarket with them."

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Rewi said there was only one medical centre to service the entire rohe and if there was an outbreak of Covid-19 it could be devastating for the community.

Checkpoint volunteers will be wearing face masks and disposable gloves, keeping a distance of 2m from those stopped and keeping interactions to a minimum of five minutes.

Those stopped will be asked their reasons for leaving or entering the rohe and names, registration numbers and times in and out will be recorded.

Rewi said this should help track the cause of any possible outbreak.

She said if there was any trouble, the volunteers had the support and a direct line to police.

The checkpoints will stay in place until alert level 4has been lifted at which point they will be reviewed.
Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website