Far North iwi are up in arms following the Prime Minister's announcement that Te Taitokerau will remain, along with Auckland, under alert level 4 lockdown for at least another two weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that at 11.59 pm on Tuesday 31 August all regions south of Auckland, including Wellington who currently have 14 cases of the highly infectious Delta variant, will move to level 3.
That means that Northland, which has no cases, will remain with Auckland in alert level 4, and that has left Te Taitokerau Border Control angry that their pleas for borders to be put up to stop Aucklanders fleeing North were not acted upon.
According to Rueben Taipari, one of the spokespeople for the Te Taitokerau Border Control, it is more than just their pleas that have fallen on deaf ears. In a post to his Facebook page, Taipari claims police blocked efforts to set up checkpoints in anticipation of Northland going down to level 3.
"TBC (Taitokerau Border Control) is struggling to get space to move and defend our borders. Yesterday, in readiness for the Level 3 change, paddy wagons pulled up to remove and serve us with Breach of Level 4 status. Politicians, police, and hapū, iwi politics is shutting us down. Govt refuses to recognise our status as essential workers."
When Te Ao Māori News spoke with Taipari, he said there was a lack of consultation with iwi around their needs, and Taipari claims the police used heavy-handed tactics towards the TBC, who he said are only worried about the welfare of Māori in the North.
"[Last lockdown] all of the people from Auckland who own holiday homes and batches here on the east coast of Northland, all shot through with their boats and their bikes and they came back for their holidays, and we said that's not gonna happen again."
"But we held our ground until the 3 o'clock announcement that the level four would remain, and then we went home."
Te Ao Māori News reached out to the police for comment, so far we have not received a reply.
Wīkātana Popata from Ngāti Kahu has long advocated for the Far North to be responsible for its own destiny. He says the government's decision to block attempts by local iwi to guard the region is another example of the government's ignorance regarding the wants and needs of iwi in the Far North.
"If the government had put up roadblocks at the beginning of the lockdown, then we wouldn't have needed to remain at level four here in Northland."
While there is widespread displeasure at the government's decision to keep Northland in level 4, there are some in Te Taitokerau who believe that New Zealand needs to start dealing with the reality of living with Covid-19.
Hard decisions about the economy required
Penetauī Kleskovic of Muriwhenua and Ngāpuhi says the government needs to start to make the hard decisions in order to save New Zealand from financial ruin.
Indeed, since the first level 4 lockdown in New Zealand in 2020, New Zealand has spent billions on the Covid recovery. The government signalled $62.1 billion of funding to support the Covid-19 response and recovery, with an initial support package that was announced on 17 March 2020 totalling $12.1 billion, and in Budget 2020 the government established the $50 billion Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF).
Penetauī says, "Lockdowns cost the government $290 million a day. We should have made the decision already to live with Covid."
Huhana Lyndon, CEO of the Ngāti Wai, Trust Board, says there has been some trepidation amongst her people about leaving level 4, and she says that although there are people in the North that fled Auckland at the start of the lockdown, Ngāti Wai is supportive of the call for Northland to stay in level 4 lockdown.
"We support the government's decision for Northland to remain at level 4. We are an iwi who lives by the coast, which means we have quite a few people who fled Auckland to escape lockdown. We feel that it is a more pragmatic approach the government is making."
Taitokerau MP Responds
Te Ao Māori News reached out to government minister and Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis for comment and he replied:
"I understand the news that Te Tai Tokerau will stay in Level 4 for some would be disappointing, but we have to be absolutely sure that Delta has not spread to our region.
"As the Prime Minister said yesterday, with a positive case in Warkworth, and the location being one of the main corridors between our two regions, we can’t take any chances.
"If the virus were to spread it would be devastating for our communities.
"On Monday, Cabinet will review how long Auckland and Northland will remain in Level 4. It’s not necessarily the case that Northland will remain in Level 4 as long as Auckland.
"For now, we need to continue to stay home and save lives. Book in for vaccination if you haven’t already, and make sure you reach out for the support that’s available if you need it," Minister Davis said.