Northland iwi leader says checkpoint workers are protectors, not 'thugs'

By Tamati Tiananga

Rueben Taipari of Tai Tokerau Borders, who is at the centre of manning the iwi-led checkpoints, has taken umbrage at Act Leader David Seymour describing checkpoint workers as "thugs."

But Taipari says, " I’m not going to weigh in on the political spin or the racist comments. For me, the enemy here is the pandemic."

"This is about collaboration and it’s about working together with the Police." 

But Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis has labelled criticism of iwi-led checkpoints over summer as racist.

Davis says those views are based on who is manning the borders and would be different if they weren't Māori.

Under the latest Covid-19 response legislation passed in Parliament last month, iwi authorities can appoint enforcement officers to work with police who will have the power to close roads and stop vehicles.

Short-term controlled checkpoints

The law has been described as "nuts" by National leader Christopher Luxon.

Taipari thinks those comments are unacceptable.  

"I'm not going to take any notice of his comments. Our focus is to provide support to our response to Covid-19." 

The checkpoints will be located on State Highway 1 at Uretiti and on State Highway 12 near Maungaturoto and will focus on northbound traffic only.

Northland police and iwi will set up and manage two short-term controlled checkpoints south of Whangārei when the borders around Auckland are lifted on December 15. The move follows discussions with local iwi and the community.

Travellers into the region will need to show proof of vaccination status or a negative Covid-19 test. The checkpoints will operate 24/7 before moving to a new model that will involve having random checkpoints and spot checks across the district.