Covid 19 coronavirus: Police close down Northland iwi checkpoint set up at Waiomio to stop spread of virus

Police have closed down an iwi ‘information centre’ set up on State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa in response to the latest Covid 19 case in the region and two cases in Auckland.

Members of the Tai Tokerau Border Control, including founder and former MP Hone Harawira, are at Waiomio, 4km south of Kawakawa, where they set up the roadside centre about 9am, using cones to divert traffic off the road and into a layby where they were given Covid-19 information.

There was initially police at the scene and there appeared to be no problems at that stage.

However, police turned up about 11.20am and stopped Tai Tokerau Border control members from stopping vehicles.

Police at the scene wouldn’t comment, only saying orders have come from higher up.

Hone Harawira said he was “pissed off” that police could stop vehicles for any reason but won’t allow his members an opportunity to do something worthwhile for their community.

Police, he said, had no plans to protect people from Covid.

He spoke earlier on today with Far North area commander Inspector Rick Whiu who was at the checkpoint and there didn’t seem any issues between both parties.

Traffic is slow but steady. Harawira said his members would now consider their options but wouldn’t elaborate what they were.

He is asking police commanders to reconsider their position otherwise the Tai Tokerau border control people would do whatever is necessary to protect the community.

Harawira said on Tuesday the group was going to resurrect the Covid-19 checkpoints set up during last year’s lockdown because not enough was being done to protect Northland’s most vulnerable people.

Harawira said just before 10am he was waiting for a few more people to turn up and put up road cones so they could direct non-commercial vehicles to the side of the road and hand over flyers that contained information about Covid 19, including the where the testing stations are.

He said only those heading north would be stopped, spoken to, and handed the flyers. His team members would be here for “as long as necessary” today. Police are also present here. Similar checkpoints are being set up in Kaikohe and Dargaville.

Harawira is also calling on the Government to shut New Zealand’s border and for the Waitangi Day to be cancelled. He said New Zealand should follow Australia in shutting down its border.

Rueben Taipari, Tai Tokerau Border Control regional coordinator said the group’s aim was to reduce the amount of traffic travelling to the Far North through the area where the confirmed Covid-19 case had visited more than 30 locations before testing positive.

Taipari said the group’s intention was to keep our community safe.

”We have too many sick people, too many old people up here in the north to risk it.”

Ngāti Hine leader and Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene said he did not support checkpoints.

”I think the messages and the reasons for the checkpoints, about securing our borders, are the right messages — but we don’t need [them] at this stage. Maybe if things ramp up in terms of community cases, but there’s no reason to get everybody anxious by having checkpoints on our state highways.”

Tipene, who is also the interim chairman of Te Ruapekapeka Trust, said he was worried checkpoints would get in the way of people heading to Te Tai Tokerau for Waitangi Day and Battle of Ruapekapeka commemorations.

”We will be talking to police because we consider police, like any other Government agency, to be a Te Tiriti o Waitangi partner. So in terms of keeping our communities safe, we really do need to talk to police on this matter.”

Former Northland MP Matt King, who spoke out against checkpoints last year, said they were illegal unless police were actively involved and he would be ”appalled” if the Government allowed them to go ahead.

”I understand the sentiment of the people running them but a lot of people got very upset and aggravated about the idea of civilians running checkpoints. When I was an MP a lot of people contacted me about it. The feeling against checkpoints was very strong, including from Māori people.”

King also questioned whether checkpoints were effective in stopping the virus.

Taipari, however, said the freedom New Zealanders had enjoyed so far this summer, with music festivals and the Six60 concert at Waitangi, was down to vigilance.

”If we contain the virus, and we do a good job of knocking it down, it will all be over in a week — instead of being locked down like Auckland for a month.”

Taipari said the group would relax once there was firm evidence the virus had not spread.
That meant no new cases for several days and no symptoms or positive tests among the case’s close contacts.

”Until that time we’re saying, don’t come up here for Anniversary Weekend or Waitangi. Just stay home, isolate and take care of yourselves.”

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