Hone Harawira at a checkpoint at Maunga Taniwha, north of Managmaku. Photo: Hone Harawira/Facebook

* Watch full interview with Hone Harawira in the video player below*

Overseas tourists venturing to the Far North risk being turned back by iwi who are manning “medical checkpoints” on the main highways. 

Organised by former politician Hone Harawira, three checkpoints are operational from Rawene, in the Hokianga, to the top of the country, with more coming in the next few days.

Harawira said he had the support of iwi leaders and police, who had joined locals to man checkpoints in Rawene, Maunga Taniwha to the North of Mangamaku and South of Waiōmio.

Harawira said the North needed to “close its borders” as New Zealand goes into Level 4 of the Covid-19 alert phase at 11.59pm Wednesday. 

In a live social media interview, Harawira claimed tourists were still attempting to carry on with their travels around Northland, ignoring the self-isolation directives from the Government.

“We are sending a message out to everybody. If you’re not from the Far North and you’re planning on coming up for a little while, put that off for a couple of months. Please.”

“I’m worried about the fact the Government shut the door to overseas tourists, but tens of thousands of them were already here, and now they’re stuck here with us, wandering around the Tai Tokerau.

“So we want to put up borders to stop any of the ones from south coming up, and then we want to make arrangements for the ones that are already here to go back down. We’ll give them Jacinda’s address and they can go and stay with her.”

Harawira said: “Unless we take action, nobody else is going to do it.”

He called on health authorities to provide medical support at the checkpoints. And added that he was taking advice from Northland GP and former Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, 

“He’s the guy that has been driving hard to do something for us here in the Far North on this particular kaupapa.”

O’Sullivan, in an interview with 1News, described the stops as an “assessment checkpoint”, saying it’s an added layer of protection for vulnerable Northland communities.

The checkpoints would be manned initially by activists, who he said knew the value of discipline, and players in the Tai Tokerau Rugby League freed up by cancelled games.

A checkpoint set up at Maunga Taniwha, Photo: Supplied

Harawira said he was motivated by fears for the elderly, children and his whānau in the Far North. 

The former leader of the Mana party was happy to take pot shots at the Prime Minister, suggesting the Government set up a refugee camp at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse for tourists who can’t get home.

“It’s relatively close to the airport and you (Jacinda Ardern) look after the tourists as they come back to Auckland.

“I don’t want them to be a burden on Auckland. I want them to be the responsibility of the Government”

Harawira says they are now looking into setting up further checkpoints in the Far North in Pākaraka, Kaeo, Taipa, Awanui and Waitiki.

*Made with the support of NZ On Air*

Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters is a television presenter, reporter and documentary-maker. Most recently he co-produced the series 'Rediscovering Aotearoa'.

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