Northland MP Matt King is calling on the police to shut down the area's road blocks, saying he’s been overwhelmed with complaints from people who feel “intimidated, bullied and threatened”.
Former Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira is behind Tai Tokerau Borders Control in the Far North, which runs road checkpoints in communities to try and stop the spread of Covid-19.
Iwi dressed in PPE pull cars over, question where they are going and attempt to turn them around if they’re found to be breaking the lockdown rules.
Mr Harawira says they are there to protect vulnerable communities and too many people are leaving their bubble to visit other towns to visit whānau or do their shopping.
“We got people in Kerikeri driving all the way to Kaikohe to do their shopping because it’s cheaper here and the lines aren’t as long - the rule is stay in your bubble."
He says while most people are happy to be stopped, others are rude and drive straight through - a few even running over the road cones.
Mr Harawira disputes claims that some people on his checkpoint are intimidating.
“We put our women on the checkpoint to question people so drivers don’t feel scared, because some of the abuse they get, the names they get called, some of us men wouldn’t take,” he says.
But Mr King says he’s been inundated with emails and phone calls from people who say they feel scared and bullied at the checkpoints and that they are too frightened to speak out publicly or on social media for fear of retribution.
“People have been turned around, they’ve been refused passage through the check point. People who have been going about their lawful business, some have been forced to take information brochures,” says Mr King.
“One in particular was a paramedic and she was going into town to pick up supplies for her farm and they would not let her pass without a brochure and she knows about contamination. She told them who she was and that she didn’t need the information because she already knew it and they still insisted before they let her through and it created a bit of annoyance and she felt quite intimated by it.”
Mr King says the checkpoints are illegal and believes police might be letting them go ahead for political reasons.
“They’re not doing enough and I’ve been speaking to frontline officers off the record and they share real concerns about some of the people that are on the checkpoints, the fact that these checkpoints are going ahead but their instructions from above are to leave them alone,” says Mr King.
Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha says police have a close working relationship with a number of communities operating the community checkpoints. He says Northland police have been regularly checking in on them and have been working closely with those running them.
“We have made our expectations very clear around what is appropriate and where issues have arisen. We have intervened,” says the commissioner.