Representatives of Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua have taken charge of the police checkpoint at Te Hana, and have raised Maori and United Tribes flags.
The iwi met with police at the Te Ao Marama cultural centre last week to establish the terms of a shared checkpoint at the Mangawhai Road intersection.
Checkpoint coordinator Jesse Pene, of Oruawharo Marae, says there were calls from iwi further north to monitor the regional boundary and prevent the spread of Covid-19 into Northland.
As the local mana whenua, his marae was called upon to take charge.
“As the gatekeepers of the regional boundary we have been asked to contain Covid at the source, and we are trying our best.”
During the previous Level 4 and 3 lockdowns there were controversial road blocks by iwi on arterial Northland roads, not supported by police.
“We wanted to form a working relationship between iwi and police at the checkpoint. The black lives matter issue really highlighted the importance of that,” Jesse says.
He says the flags raised at the checkpoint and the presence of iwi is reassuring to his people in an uncertain time.
At the Te Hana checkpoint, Ngati Whatua has already established a system where residents of the Oruawharo Peninsula, between the Otamatea and Oruawharo rivers, have a yellow card to identify them.
Jesse says the idea is to allow Kaipara District residents living on the boundary to be able to do their food shopping and visit the doctor in Wellsford and Warkworth more easily.
“We police the police and make sure they are talking to our people properly,” Jesse says.
Jesse says the iwi also initiated a system to streamline the checkpoint by allowing trucks to pass through a separate line to non-commercial drivers.
Ngati Whatua has a team leader and three workers there each day, working two shifts between 8am and 5pm.
Last week, Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua chief operating officer Antony Thompson took to YouTube to declare it the ‘Ngati Whatua checkpoint’.
“Whanau, don’t be offended if Ngati Whatua turn you back to Tamaki or to Te Tai Tokerau. It is in our best interest to contain Covid-19 in Auckland,” Mr Thompson said.
“We need to eliminate it together as one.”