Te Whanau a Apanui has moved to level 5 following breaches of its border controls imposed and is urging whanau and travellers to help keep Covid-19 out of the region.
Maori communities have been disproportionally impacted by disease and previous pandemics and the threat of loss of lives during the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the iwi to further tighten its border measures introduced last week.
Steps have been taken to close the border after hours and introduce a permit system for those wishing to travel in and out at other times.
Media spokesperson Rawiri Waititi said Te Whanau a Apanui currently had zero cases of Covid-19 and “zero is our target”.
There were still a number of travellers heading outside the borders for non-essential travel, putting everyone at risk, especially the pakeke, Mr Waititi said.
“The iwi are now tightening up their community safety zones and our Apanui border control zones to keep the tribe safe.
“We need to change our behaviour and just stay home,” he said.
The western border at Hawai and the eastern border at Potaka will be closed after hours and will re-open again for essential travel only.
“From 10 pm, the borders will be open to emergency services only. For everyone else, they will remain closed. Between 5am and 10pm, the road will open to iwi for essential items and for medical reasons,” he said.
Markets and stores in the area have enough supplies to cater to everyone’s needs, Mr Waititi said.
“We encourage people to shop locally. Stores, including Te Kaha Holiday Park, Waihau Bay Store and Omaio Store are stocked with essential needs and can cater to the iwi. We also have a delivery service to ensure our shops can cope with the influx,” he said.
A new permit system has been established, he said, and any travellers who wanted to go outside the borders were required to seek a permit from the selected hapu (subtribe) representative.
“If you don’t have a permit, you won’t be allowed through. If it isn’t for essential travel, then you will be declined. If it is for food shopping that is non-essential, you will be declined.
“Only one occupant per vehicle will be allowed. We don’t want the whole whanau going for a joyride. We urge people to stay inside the iwi boundary and not travel outside of it.
“We’ve made it clear to everyone, including our own whanau who live outside of our area, to keep away until the rahui has been lifted.”
Following last week’s announcement of the border closure, Opotiki Mayor Lyn Riesterer said in statement that Whanau a Apanui had a unique set of circumstances around access, land ownership, and geographical isolation.
“This is the action they have decided is necessary to protect the vulnerable and elders,” she said.