Iwi establish more COVID-19 checkpoints
At least five more iwi have enforced border controls in the last week in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus by rule-breaking locals, hunters, and tourists.
Bay of Plenty iwi Ngāti Manawa now have manned checkpoints after seeing locals out for non-essential reasons, and upon hearing hunters and tourists were still making their way to the nearby Urewera Ranges.
On the first day, volunteers stopped more than 600 cars.Of that number, 301 were roaming locals, a large number for a town of around 2000 people.
Local principal and former Māori Party leader Pem Bird says as well as roaming locals, there were campervans and hunters just a few days ago travelling through Murupara, who wanted to "see a bit of nature", including the popular Waikaremoana Great Walk.
There are about 50 locals who have volunteered at the two main checkpoints, which they will occupy daily.
“We've turned back non-residents and a few hunters out for the roar (stag season).
"We're not taking any risks whatsoever, the rāhui is to prevent any access. Especially for a small town like Murupara, it will be devastating if the virus comes here."
Ngāti Manawa join several other iwi who have mandated border controls, from the Far North, to the East Cape, the East Coast, and Auckland, some who established checkpoints days before the month-long lockdown.
In Auckland, whānau at Ihumātao in south Auckland have placed a rāhui on the land. A rāhui is an act of prohibiting access to land and waterways, as a conservation measure, usually put in place with a karakia.
Further south in Whakatāne, police, in partnership with local iwi and council, closed several roads. A direct result of people "flouting the rules", Senior sergeant Tristan Murray says.
In Taupō, Ngāti Tūhemohuta hapū have placed a rāhui on the waterways along the eastern lakeshore in an attempt to protect the small Māori settlement of about 500 people.
More recently, East Coast iwi Te Whānau-ā-Āpanui, who are among a handful of iwi who established checkpoints before the lockdown, stepped it up a notch by enforcing alert "level 5".
The iwi already has in place a 24-hours-a-day manned closure of its borders to all outsiders but introduced curfews and a permit system in an effort to protect its vulnerable community from the virus.
In the Far North, tourists have also been banned from entering the area at either of two manned checkpoints.
Former Tai Tokerau (Northland) MP Hone Harawira says by stopping tourists from entering they were doing their bit to protect locals from the spread of coronavirus.
There was also a vehicle on-site at Waiomio Hill that allowed the group to test for fevers for locals returning from overseas.
Hone says three volunteers at a time will station themselves on the side of the road at main entry points to the Far North: at State Highway 1 at Whakapara, and at State Highway 12 at Waipoua.
In the East Cape, road blocks and checkpoints have also been planned.
Residents of Wharekahika will be stationed at Te Araroa Road between 8am and 6pm, from Wednesday March 25 to Wednesday April 8.
Longtime Hicks Bay community member Ani Pahiru Huriwai, of Te Puna Manaaki a Ruataupare, says volunteers were planning to set up checkpoints to stop campervans and other unfamiliar vehicles at Te Araroa and Wharekahika (Hicks Bay).
And while most have respected the checkpoints, some members of the public have questioned whether the checkpoints are legal.
Police say they have been working closely with communities who wish to set up controls at their borders, with some officers attending the checkpoints to help.
"Where police are aware of these concerns we have been speaking to those involved to provide education and advice to ensure the safety of all members of our communities. Police's focus remains on maintaining public safety, security and public order.
"Our officers have discretion in how they deal with matters and how they are enforced and all situations will be assessed on a case by case basis."
Earlier, Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha, says police are working with iwi who are taking the lead to ensure rural communities that don't have immediate access to support services are well protected.
"We are all coming to this kaupapa from the same place - out of a need to protect the most vulnerable in the community.
"Iwi are taking a strong leadership role and we want to model what it looks like when iwi, police, councils and other agencies work in partnership. Our role is supporting this cultural response to Covid-19."