Saturday, November 27

The lockdowns see the homeless trapped on the road to nowhere


The walk of a lifetime has come to a sudden halt for homeless trapped in the alert level three closures of the upper North Island.

Victoria Bruce and her 7-year-old daughter Emilie on Te Araroa Trail.

Victoria Bruce and her 7-year-old daughter Emilie spent six days walking the 90 Mile Beach section of the Te Araroa Trail before Northland was put into the level three lockdown.
Photo: Supplied

About 650 people signed up to hike the entire Te Araroa trail this season. The gigantic 3,000-kilometer route runs through New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff and takes 4-5 months to complete.

Te Tai Tokerau, Tāmaki Makaurau, and Waikato were scheduled to be under alert level three until at least Monday, October 18, meaning that interregional travel was strictly controlled and no overnight walking was allowed.

Up to 200 walkers were stuck on the road to nowhere, meaning the only walk they could do was go to a local Covid cleanup station to get proof and pair it with a plane ticket to get out of the lockdown.

Claire Nelson, 39, a writer who recently returned to Aotearoa from the UK, had taken to Te Araroa as a way to reconnect with her homeland.

But until now, she had spent more days trapped in an Ahipara camp in Te Tai Tokerau than she had enjoyed the views.

“We all walked in knowing things could change and preparing to skip the Auckland region. But no one was prepared for a Northland lockdown, especially so early in the trek, otherwise we wouldn’t have boarded when we did.”

She was even more frustrated by the circumstances of the Northland closure, where two positive Covid cases used false documents to travel to the region and refused to inform authorities about their movements in the region.

“It is a real kick in the teeth, as it is a person who has deliberately violated the blockade and is not cooperating.”

Claire Nelson during the 90 Mile Beach stretch of the Te Araroa Trail.

Claire Nelson found herself trapped in an Ahipara camp when Northland returned to level three.
Photo: Supplied

Nelson had decided to get tested for Covid and then fly home to Wellington, before beginning the trek again south of the Waikato border.

While he wished the Te Araroa walkers would be allowed to cross the border, he knew it was unrealistic.

“I really believe that we represent minimal risk and that everyone will be happy to do any tests, walk around with masks or do whatever it takes to get out. I understand logistically that that would be something really difficult to impose.”

Victoria Bruce walks the trail with her 7-year-old daughter, Emilie. They had also reluctantly decided to bypass the top of the North Island and restart the trail at Taumarunui.

The Ōtautahi resident had quit her job to walk the trail, take a break from mental health from everyday life, and raise money for charity along the way.

“We spent six days walking 90 Mile Beach, rocked to camp, and the next day we heard the announcement that Northland would enter the level three lockdown,” he said.

“It is very difficult when it comes to a waiting game. You don’t know whether to wait in case the lockdown is lifted, or if you wait and Covid spreads further, there are more restrictions and it is even more difficult to get out of Northland.”

Te Araroa Trust CEO Mark Weatherall estimated that as many as 200 walkers were affected by the closures, some of whom had planned their mission for years.

“Many of them quit their jobs with the intention of taking four or five months to walk the country and reevaluate their life. I think they are frustrated, not knowing what is going to happen or when, but I think we all know what that is.” . it feels like.”

He urged all walkers to adhere to the alert level rules of the region they were in.


www.rnz.co.nz

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