Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith slams central government after checkpoint change

Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith believes Northlanders are being ignored by central government after yesterday’s border checkpoints were reverted to their locations from last year.

Smith, also the Northland Mayoral Forum chairman, said the concerns of Tai Tokerau’s local government leaders had also been dismissed by the change, given the dysfunction it caused for locals when Auckland last went into lockdown in August.

At 6pm yesterday, the three checkpoints at the Brynderwyns, Maungaturoto and north of Mangawhai were removed with last year’s checkpoints at Te Hana and on various roads south of Mangawhai reinstated.

Revised northern border checkpoints:

• SH1/Mangawhai Rd (Twin Coast Discovery Highway)
• Mangawhai Rd/north of Coal Hill Rd
• Black Swamp, west of Rako Rd
• Mangawhai Rd and Cames Rd
• Mangawhai Rd and Ryan Rd

Last year, residents on Coal Hill Rd, Avocado Lane, Black Swamp Rd, Paul Rd, Carter Rd, Sandhill Heights, and Rako Heights were adversely affected by the checkpoints, forced to travel elsewhere for supplies.

After these issues, the Northland Mayoral Forum wrote to central government, requesting a better solution be found – but it appeared their concerns fell on deaf ears.

“It’s extremely frustrating, they need to listen to the local community,” he said.

Smith said Tai Tokerau local leaders were frequently ignored and this checkpoint change was another instance of central government not listening to its smaller regions.

“Central government’s response today is disappointing, it signals to me that they need to listen more to local government.”

Smith said the issue would be discussed at the forum’s next meeting in two weeks and it was likely another letter would be sent.

In her media briefing late yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the inclusion of Mangawhai in Auckland’s border boundary affected more communities than necessary, but she wasn’t looking to apportion blame.

Police declined to comment further.

It comes as no new community Covid-19 cases were found yesterday as nine close contacts returned negative results. A further 33 close contacts were awaiting test results.

Ardern confirmed the current alert levels would continue (level 3 for Auckland and level 2 for the rest of New Zealand), as well as announcing the first batch of Pfizer vaccines had arrived yesterday.

Checkpoint struggles were also experienced yesterday by some Mangawhai locals heading north who were turned away by police – despite being in the same alert level as the rest of the region.

An estimated 90 per cent of businesses at Mangawhai’s Wood St shopping centre had closed because many owners were unsure whether they were operating under alert level 2 or 3.

Anna Wilson, owner of Mangawhai cafe/restaurant Brewed As Collective, said her morning of misinformation yesterday had been frustrating.

Despite being told by the Covid-19 business helpline that Mangawhai was in level 2, Wilson had received differing accounts from others in the area.

“We should have been allowed to be open but because of that misinformation, we didn’t want to take that risk.”

Wood St Pizzeria manager Brenton Dix said they were closed yesterday, partly because of alert level confusion, but also to give staff a break after two busy long weekends.

He believed surrounding businesses had closed for similar reasons.

“I think they were just more in the dark about what was happening,” he said.

Mangawhai Tyres staff member Bee Tipene branded Mangawhai “the land of confusion” and was surprised to see how quiet the normally busy area was at midday yesterday.

The confusion also affected nearby schools with Mangawhai Beach School advised by the Ministry of Education to shut its doors until its alert level was clarified.

Principal Aaron Kemp said the Covid alert levels were confusing because the school was situated almost at the Northland/Auckland border. Only children of essential workers were allowed to attend but they needed to call to confirm their attendance.

Only a handful of students were in school by 9am yesterday.

Miniwhais, an early learning centre on Robert Hastie Dr in Mangawhai, was advised by police it could open for kids of essential workers only.

Otamatea High School was open yesterday and students who lived in Kaiwaka were being allowed through the police checkpoint in Maungaturoto.

Covid-19 testing saw a surge in demand yesterday with 150 swabs taken by 1pm. Testing centres in Whangārei, Kerikeri, Kaitaia and Dargaville would be offering more testing throughout the week, which would be reviewed daily.

More information on testing centres can be found at www.northlanddhb.org.nz

While under alert level 2, Northland DHB medical officer of health Dr Catherine Jackson advised:

• If you’re sick, stay home. Do not go to work or school. Do not socialise.
• If you have cold, flu or Covid-19 symptoms, call your doctor or Healthline and get advice about being tested.
• If you have been told to self-isolate, you legally must do so immediately.
• Keep at least 2m from people in public and in retail stores, and 1m in other places like workplaces, cafes, restaurants and gyms.

Whangārei MP Emily Henderson urged people to listen to the Prime Minister and her ministers when they made Covid-related announcements so they got accurate information.

Whangārei-based list MP Dr Shane Reti said he supported a cautious approach while the source of the community infections was discovered.

He said there was a fine balance between protecting the community while still enabling the community to function, both socially and economically.

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