Iwi lock down their rohe - in pictures

If you’re out on the road this weekend, be prepared to be stopped – and not just by the police. Kayne Peters reports on the official and unofficial roadblocks springing up all over the motu.

Iwi across the country have stepped up efforts to secure their borders ahead of Easter Weekend. And police have joined forces with them to help protect their communities from possible Covid-19 transmission.

Although police could not give full details of when and where they’ll be setting up checkpoints, iwi are making their own known in the hope travellers will stay away and stay home.


Northland iwi have today set up their 11th checkpoint since lockdown began on March 26 – the most recent, in Kāeo, north of Kerikeri.

Iwi checkpoint at Kāeo, Northland – Facebook, Hone Harawira

Former politician and Northland resident Hone Harawira says that although border control measures have ramped up across Northland, some travellers are still getting in.

“We do know a whole lot of them are sneaking in through back roads,” he says. “That’s a concern. And our job is to make sure we limit that.

Harawira admits iwi checkpoints aren’t always smooth sailing for those on the front line. “Sometimes you get a bit frustrated because travellers are being arseholes, quite frankly.

“We’ve just got to try and keep everything positive. It’s tough. And you’ve got to be really comfortable with it, eh. You’ve got to make sure that when people leave the checkpoint, they feel that they’ve been well treated.”

When a foreign tourist approaches a checkpoint, Harawira adds, they are ushered to the side of the road and given directions to the nearest police station. “And we just make sure they know where to go to safely.”

Health measures are high priority at each checkpoint and Harawira says whānau know to wear their safety gear. “You’ve got to make sure the mask is above the nose.”

And he is adamant Northland check points will remain in place until “this is all over”.

Iwi check point at Waitangi, Northland. Photo: Facebook, Hone Harawira

Northland check points are currently set up in Waitiki, Ngataki, Kāeo, Pawarenga Panguru, Opononi, Kohukohu, Mangamuka, Rawene, Kaikohe and Waitangi.


On Thursday April 8 Waikato Regional Councillor Denis Tegg announced on his Tegg Talk blog that checkpoints in Thames Coromandel had been set up on State Highway 25. And Civil Defence confirmed 25 traffic movements in one hour and that five of them had breached lockdown rules.


Ngāi Tūhoe iwi governing body Te Uru Taumatua has set up checkpoints in Waikaremoana, Ruatāhuna, Rūātoki and Te Waimana.

Tūhoe are concerned about non-essential traveling and the health risk it brings to their tribal communities.

Two kaitiaki (guards) will be at each checkpoint recording names and licence plate numbers.


Concerned about holiday makers turning up in the middle of the night at their empty baches around Lake Taupō, police have set up checkpoints both in Taupō township and in Tūrangi on the lake’s southern shores.

 Checkpoint on State Highway One, Tūrangi. Photo: Facebook, TeTakinga New

Ngāti Manawa has also set up two checkpoints on State Highway 38 in Murupara.

Manawa iwi member and local resident Leila Rewi sought support from iwi leaders to put the checkpoints in place to ensure their community was monitoring who was crossing their boundary in or out.


Te Whānau-a-Apanui on the East Cape are still operating 24-hour checkpoints as they don’t want another repeat of the flu pandemic that ravaged their community in 1918.

Rawiri Waititi on patrol in Te Whānau-a-Apanui – Facebook, Rawiri Waititi

Iwi member and local resident Rawiri Waititi says it would be devastating if Covid-19 were to contaminate the iwi. Out of the 1700 residents, more than 200 of them are elderly.

“To lose that generation would be catastrophic for Te-Whānau-a-Apanui. That’s happened in the past here in 1918 when the Spanish Flu hit,” he says. “We’ve got tombs here that remind us about that.”

To keep spirits up, the iwi are challenging each other to record waiata or TikTok videos and share them to social media while on border patrol.

Waititi says, “We’re doing the challenge to keep our energy up. And when they’re not on the border patrol, those are the people going to get meat and firewood to drop off to our pakeke (elders).”

“We have an obligation to provide for our families,” he says. “And we have an obligation to provide for our communities. But also ensure our safety is paramount.”

Checkpoints on the East Coast are also operating in Uawa and Tokomaru Bay. But Ruatoria locals had to end their checkpoint yesterday after two weeks of border control.


Tasman police have confirmed eight groups of travellers were stopped at a checkpoint south of Murchison on April 9 while trying to head away for their Easter break. They were made to turn around and go back to their Christchurch homes.

Prior to the lockdown on March 26, Ngāti Wheke, a hapū (sub-tribe) of Ngai Tahu had already closed the road into Rapaki Pā, south of Christchurch.

 Kahu Phillips guards Rāpaki Pā in the South Island.

Iwi member and local resident Kylie Jane Phillips says, “We have set up a system where we all talk to each other when we’re leaving the Pā.”

Phillips adds that people from neighbouring areas have been spotted walking through their Pā. “We just kick them out straight away,” she says. “They’ve got no reason to be here.

“Apart from a few of us with young families, it’s just our kaumātua who live here now. So if you don’t live here, then you don’t drive in here.”

Police are warning of an increase in patrol presence over the Easter weekend, and that non-essential travellers will be fined.

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