Travel to and from Northland appears to be severely restricted, despite falling alert levels in the region.
Northland will join the rest of the country, except Auckland, at Alert Level 2 at midnight Wednesday morning.
But Northland’s movement to other parts of the country will be limited to essential travel, including attending a funeral or tangihanga, attending a wedding or civil union, collecting or accompanying tūpāpaku, or attending an educational center.
Police checkpoints will stop anyone crossing the supercity borders to ask for documentation.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that Northland was effectively cut off from the rest of the country, while Auckland remained at Level 4 and that there would be unlimited movement in the region.
“You can travel if you need to, but you must be able to travel without stopping and with proof of where you are going,” he said.
“Our main focus has really been to make sure that those in Northland are not unnecessarily at a disadvantage because they are a Tier 2 environment like everyone else, but they are at a disadvantage having Auckland in the middle.”
Tai Tokerau Border Control (TBC) regional coordinator Reuben Taipari said any possibility of a border breach remains a concern.
“Our proximity to Auckland continues to be a problem for us, so we are in a different category than the rest of the country, probably us and the Waikato region.”
Taipari said big swells are forecast for Ahipara in the coming days and that they are preparing for surfers who want to access the waves, but TBC would encourage people to stay local.
He said volunteers would be on the other side of the rohe for the entirety of level 2 to make sure people stayed on their toes.
“We are doing a good job of controlling and reducing it, why take the risk?”
I wanted Northland to remain vigilant for the next several weeks.
“Instead of taking risks, go in and then back off, we go to level 3 and level 4, and if it happens in our communities up here, how long will it take us to get out again?”
But having restricted access comes at a cost. Northland Inc CEO Murray Reade said Northland would make it a bit more difficult than most of New Zealand.
“We recognize Auckland, who are still locked in and are doing it two levels harder than everyone else.”
He said the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Employment and Business Innovation were looking for ways to support Northland and make up for the fact that it is more isolated than the rest of the country.
But with summer on the horizon and tourism businesses already suffering, some are dreaming of ways to keep the region connected despite the Auckland barrier.
Dive Tutukaka owner and manager Kate Malcolm said that while Northland would never want to exclude Auckland, there may need to be some creative solutions to get by without them for a while.
She said these could include direct flights to other parts of the country, perhaps Kerikeri to Wellington or Christchurch, as well as the use of buses, car rental deals, or even ferries.
“Everything is possible if you open your mind to it.”
Air New Zealand has been asked whether direct flights could be made to other parts of the country besides Auckland. The company is waiting to see what exactly the government’s level 2 order on transit passengers entails.