Hone Harawira wants hard border to remain between Auckland, Northland to protect unvaccinated

The AM Show 18/11/2021

WATCH: Hone Harawira has expressed deep concern around Aucklanders visiting the Northland region over summer.

The former MP says the government should continue to enforce a hard border between the regions as spot checks might not be enough to limit the amount of COVID being brought into the area, where vaccination rates are still much lower than they should be.

On wednesday it was announced that on December 15th the Auckland border will open up so those who have been locked down in the city can guarantee a trip away this summer.

The Catch? To leave the super-city boundary lines you must either be double vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID test result within 72 hours prior to crossing the border. That being said - the only way this can be policed is by random spot checks by police as people cross the border following mid December.

Anyone caught at the border without proof of vaccination or a negative test will be fined $1,000.

Hone Harawira, the chief executive of the iwi-led checkpoint group Tai Tokerau Border Control says this doesn’t go far enough and has slammed the spot checking concept as ‘pointless’.

"I don't have a problem with what the Government is proposing - except allowing open-door travel into Te Tai Tokerau. I think we still need to keep a hard border, and ensure that the only people who can come in have been fully vaccinated," he told The AM Show.

Harawira said that the spot checks will miss too many positive cases coming through the border with the potential of hundreds of unvaccinated people carrying the virus into the region.

"My understanding is that the hard border is going to be lifted, it's going to be [monitored] with spot checks only - and that's a recipe for disaster. I've seen spot checks, I've participated in spot checks - you're going to let a 1000 people go past and then stop two. Or you could let 20 people go post and stop two, and you could get those two wrong. Spot-checks are pointless. They only work if you've got hard borders," he said.

The consequences of COVID running rife among the many unvaccinated members of the communities in Northland are something Harawira says he almost can’t bear to think about.

"It's scary. I don't even really want to contemplate what could happen if we don't manage this right. My job as part of Te Tai Tokerau Border Control and working with iwi up here, is to do everything we can to raise the vaccination rates and limit the amount of travel into our territory until we get over [90] percent. Right now, we're not targeted to hit the 90 until January 15."

Harawira says that the government have not provided enough data on who they need to be targeting to help boost the currently swindelling vaccination numbers. As it stands, only 57 percent of eligible Māori in Northland are fully vaccinated - 61 percent of eligible Māori are fully vaccinated nationwide. Comparatively, 73 percent have received both doses in Auckland.

"If I've got a 1000 people in my community, but there's only 20 that are unvaccinated, do I really need to be doing a [scattered] approach and chase all 1000? Or do I just focus on the 20? That's the information the Ministry of Health has refused to provide to us for months. If we had that, we'd be a lot higher than we are now," Harawira said.

"So that's the first thing: release that data immediately. The second thing is, allow us, if necessary, to put up a hard border to ensure that the only people who can come in, are those who are allowed to come in. If they're not allowed, turn them around and send them back to Auckland… right now, our priority must be those who are most vulnerable in our community."

He says that once the vaccination rates have hit a high enough number, the community leaders will be much more open and welcoming to Aucklanders and others around the country, but until that date comes, a tight border must be managed.

"The Government needs to understand that for Northland, to participate positively in the exercise of opening up the nation, we need to take extra precautions in terms of maintaining a hard border and [the Ministry of Health] providing that data immediately so we can identify where the unvaccinated people are and target them… I'm very worried," he said.

"It's a case of accepting that for a better future for everybody, we [need] to hold on a little bit longer… if we can make give it extra time to get past the 90, to lift our vaccination rates - let's move Christmas to January 25 and we'll have our Christmas then… and we'll probably be welcoming everyone."

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