East Coast Hapu Resolute In Restricting Unlawful Traffic Into Region
East coast hapu Te Whanau a Tuwhakairiora will continue to proceed with a roadside checkpoint in Wharekahika to protect their highly vulnerable communities from travellers flouting travel restrictions along State Highway 35.
“Our health profile as a community is nationally significant, and the nature of our chronic illnesses means that we are both more likely to contract COVID-19, as well as less likely to recover from it” says checkpoint co-ordinator Tina Ngata. “When you put that together with the lack of health services within Ngati Porou, it places us at a higher level of risk than most New Zealand regions, and citizens”.
“This decision has been made by our community in order to protect us from infection, it is not made lightly, and is being developed with strict protocols to keep our community, and roadusers, safe. It means that we will be reserving our health services for our own community, and encourages others to utilise the health services where they are” said Wharekahika Maori Committee chair Kingi Houkamau.
Te Whanau a Tuwhakairiora’s position has been supported from the likes of the Motor Caravan Association, and Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha who sees the value in working in partnership with communities to provide relevant support, particularly where current services are unable to. Deputy Commissioner Haumaha is working closely with East Coast iwi Te Whanau a Apanui to ensure that checkpoints at Potaka and Hawai are also well supported, adding “We want to model what it looks like when iwi, police, councils and other agencies work in partnership”.
The government’s announcement of Level 3 COVID-19 alert status, to be followed by Level 4 within 48 hours, means that all non-necessary travel is banned. Ms Ngata noted, however, that the government has been requesting restrictions on domestic travel throughout alert status 2, and yet still there have been high tourist numbers travelling through their region. “The tourists are our focus right now, but we are trying to get the message out to our local whanau that every time they travel to town they risk bringing the infection back to our community. Now more than ever it is essential that our community is well protected, and that will require strong, collaborative relationships between communities, local government and state agencies”.
It is anticipated that tourist numbers will soon drop, and the checkpoint status will be reviewed regularly in consideration of community needs, and COVID-19 status.