Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora to restrict unlawful traffic into region

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

East coast hapū Te Whanau a Tūwhakairiora, one of the northernmost tribes of Ngāti Porou, will proceed with a roadside checkpoint in the Wharekāhika area.

Checkpoint co-ordinator Tina Ngata says the checkpoint is to protect their highly vulnerable communities from those ignoring 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,” Tina Ngata says.

Ngāti Porou is one of the most isolated territories in Aotearoa and like many rural Iwi, access to health services is more difficult. 

“It places us at a higher level of risk than most New Zealand regions, and citizens,” Tina Ngata says.

Wharekāhika Māori Committee chair Kingi Houkamau says:

“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 road users, 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.”

The East Coast is a popular tourist destination, and the decision by Te Whānau a Tūwhakairiora follows the stance taken by neighboring iwi Te Whānau a Apanui. 

“The tourists are our focus right now, but we are trying to get the message out to our local whānau 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,” says Tina Ngata. 

The checkpoint is set to be in place tomorrow. It is anticipated by hapū members that tourist numbers will soon drop, and the checkpoint status will be reviewed regularly in consideration of community needs and COVID-19 status.