ON PATROL: Eastern Bay police will be out and about to ensure people understand the importance of staying home during the lockdown. D9777-04

WHAKATANE police are continuing to prioritise education and reasoning following the tightening of lockdown guidelines.

The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has provided guidance to the New Zealand Police, who issued the new guidelines on Saturday night.

These include restrictions on many activities that people in the Eastern Bay would normally participate in on a daily basis, including no swimming, surfing, hunting, boating or hiking.

Whakatane Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick has dispelled social media rumours that police have been issuing fines to recreational fishers caught flouting the rules.

Even if police had the power to impose such a penalty, education and reasoning would still take priority.

“We do not have the ability to give instant fines,” he said.

“There are significantly stronger guidelines set in place and it’s up to the public now to reduce any prospect of breaking their bubble.

“This includes frontline and emergency services needing to help people who have breached those guidelines.”

Mr Fenwick believes there may be a growing animosity in the community towards those who are breaking the rules but encourages people to remember to stay kind.

“Don’t be that person to let everybody down. This is affecting people’s lives and livelihoods and the longer we stay in lockdown, the more people’s lives will be impacted,” Mr Fenwick said.

These guidelines are set out as:

  • Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement.
  • Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained.
  • Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.
  • A child can leave the residence of one joint caregiver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint caregiver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement.
  • A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if:
  • One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or
  • Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person.

Dr Bloomfield said the tightening of restrictions would serve as a pathway toward coming out of lockdown as soon as possible, and by clarifying the rules, this reinforced the police’s ability to enforce them.

The announcement also gave clarity around “bubble” guidelines.

“Specifically, if you live alone and have already established a bubble with another household this can be maintained so long as both households have no contact with others – that they stay in their joint bubble,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“No one likes a rule breaker, especially when breaking the rules puts other New Zealanders’ lives at risk.

“We need to be extra vigilant to move out of Alert Level 4 as soon as possible, and police have all the powers they need to make sure people not following the rules are dealt with,” Dr Bloomfield added.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the police’s primary focus in this time was to ensure people understood the importance of staying home.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of what they can and can’t do under the Alert Level 4 restrictions, and by and large people are doing a tremendous job,” he said.

“We want people to stay safe, but if a small number of people persist in deliberately flouting the restrictions, police will have the discretion to warn or, if necessary, to arrest.

“The health notice makes it clear what types of outdoor exercise and recreation people shouldn’t do.

“Outside of that, we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk exposure to injury or require search and rescue services.

“The public should not notice any significant change to policing as we continue to prioritise high visibility reassurance to the community, and a continued focus on day-to-day Police work.

“I have recently set a clear expectation of our staff on how we police in the current environment.

“We have today updated our operational guidelines to staff, to help them police with confidence and certainty,” Mr Coster said.

hazel.osborne@thebeacon.co.nz