Police say that they are up to protecting Tairāwhiti from COVID-19

By Taroi Black

Police are sticking to their guns saying that they have the manpower to protect Tairāwhiti. But whānau operating their own checkpoints throughout the rohe say that they don’t.

Since Aotearoa hit Level 4 alert six checkpoints were created by local Ngāti Porou uri and Te Aitanga a Hauiti in Uawa, Tokomaru Bay, Ruatoria, Te Araroa and Wharekahika. Checkpoint co-ordinators claim that police lack the resources to man State Highway 35.

However, the situation has also been challenging for local police who urge checkpoint workers to stay home, as ordered by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Tairāwhiti liaison Willis Tamatea says, “Obviously lockdown has changed the demand for a number of reasons. So, our staff are regularly available so why whānau are not seeing that I can’t give you that answer.”

Earlier this week police had asked checkpoints to stand down following two new cases of COVID-19 in Tairāwhiti. Now there’s four after today’s announcement in Wellington.

Community checkpoint operators have asked for more police personnel up the coast due to their isolation and distance from much needed services.

“We cover two shifts an early and a late shift and a night shift. So we’re sending our reserve team from an early shift up there and a reserve team for the late shift.”

The Toitū Tairāwhiti Iwi Chairs, is a pan-iwi leadership group formed to ensure Tairāwhiti iwi stay safe. They want whānau to be calm, be safe and above all stay at home, in response to the recent cases.

Te Ao Maori News was also told by Toitū Tairāwhiti they will meet with police and Civil Defence on a new strategy that could help answer concerning matters relating to the checkpoints.

Mana whenua hope that the Gisborne District will be sufficiently protected throughout the pandemic.

Toitu Tairawhiti Spokesperson Selwyn Parata says, “If you stay in your bubble you will stay out of trouble”.