Covid 19 Delta outbreak: East Coast hapū set up checkpoint after authorities refuse

Alice Angeloni, Local Democracy Reporter

Hapū from northern Ngāti Porou have set up a fixed road checkpoint at Te Araroa after authorities refused to do so.

The Matakaoa Covid-19 response group say roaming police checkpoints have not reduced traffic and that their communities have been offered “less protection” during the outbreak of the more infectious Delta variant, than during lockdown in 2020.

A roster of people who will social distance if not from the same bubble is operating the checkpoint located at the intersection of State Highway 35 and Pohutu Rd.

Tairāwhiti area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said he would visit the checkpoint to speak to those involved but had no further comment at this stage.

Static road checkpoints involving the community are illegal.

It comes after acting Minister for Emergency Management Kris Faafoi last week rejected a written request from 32 Ngāti Porou marae to declare a regional state of emergency and implement static checkpoints for the Coast.

The minister agreed with Tairāwhiti’s emergency management controller David Wilson, who believed emergency status was not necessary.

Matakaoa Covid-19 response spokeswoman Ani Pahuru-Huriwai said they had asked for static checkpoints to control the flow of traffic and so far, at a regional and national level, it had been refused.

“We have given emergency services every opportunity to try to bring the risk levels down for our whanau and they’ve not been effective.

“We have tried to communicate this to the council, the emergency controller and central government, and our voices are being ignored, so we are left with no choice but to put these protections in ourselves.

“We see this as a failure from local and national government to live up to the numerous commitments they have made over this past year to work closely with communities in combating Covid-19.”

The group released traffic flow data provided by the police’s mobile checkpoints.

They say it showed a marked increase in traffic levels compared to the same time frame in the 2020 lockdown when static checkpoints were in place.

“Whereas last year we were able to get traffic flows down to about four or five cars per hour, now we are averaging 23 cars per hour,” Pahuru-Huriwai said.

“Our local whānau are also noticing a lot of strange cars and unknown people in town, and police checkpoints have stopped cars coming into our communities from as far away as Waikato.”

Pahuru-Huriwai said they had worked closely with police over the past week, providing community assistants to the mobile checkpoints.

Police sent to Wharekahika/Hicks Bay and Te Araroa from other regions had been very supportive and professional.

Aberahama told the Gisborne Herald on Friday that police were happy with the 20 mobile checkpoints running across the district daily.

About 50 to 60 police were patrolling Tairāwhiti.

Matakaoa Covid-19 response member Tina Ngata said the checkpoint came as a relief to whānau.

“Everybody is relieved to have it back up because we know that that’s what works. Our kaumatua are anxious, our whānau are anxious because we all know about the Delta variant and we feel less protected than last year.

Ngata said they were frustrated to have spent more than a year working with the district council, civil defence, police and health officials about the importance of communities in responding to Covid-19 only to have their requests ignored and denied.

“It just flies in the face of everything they’ve said in the last year when they’ve said they will work with us.

“We have tried doing it the way that the police wanted to do it and it’s not working.

“We do value our relationship with police. We just have a different opinion to them and our opinion is grounded in the community.”

The council declined to comment.

Source: Read Full Article