Self-appointed guardians


I live in a small settlement along the coast of Banks Peninsula. If you are driving, there are only a couple of ways in.

Quite a large proportion of our settlement’s residents are over 70 and, unsurprisingly, many have underlying health issues.

A couple of community-minded residents and I recently decided we needed to do more to protect them from Covid 19. We felt too many people who didn’t look very local were driving into our area and possibly spreading the virus.

We didn’t feel confident the police had the resources to conduct the constant monitoring and surveillance required so this is what we did. We got some cones from somewhere, put on some white overalls and masks and set up road blocks at either end of the settlement. We started stopping every car to ensure the occupants had genuine business in our area and weren’t just coming in for a tiki-tour.

Of course I just made all that up but you can imagine what would happen if we had done exactly that. We would have been rightly marched off by the police, charged with some public nuisance offence and ended up in court.

Yep. You’d have the Police moving you on or arresting you within minutes, hours at the most.

As the Government struggled with deciding how to protect the country from Covid 19, the former Tai Tokerau MP  , who lives in Kaitaia, was taking the bull by the horns.

On March 25 he told media he was organising checkpoints to be set up at the main entry points to the Far North to keep out tourists and non-locals. Checkpoints would be set up on State Highway 1 and State Highway 12 on the West Coast. …

At a time when the most common headline is “Outrage At..” here really was an outrage but we didn’t hear much from the mainstream commentariat or from Labour ministers. It was left to uncool old timers like former Maori Affairs minister Dover Samuels and former National leader Don Brash to take issue with Harawira’s plans.

Samuels pointed to free movement rights and said it wasn’t the time for “grandstanding by the sheriff of Kaitaia”.    

Brash called the moves appalling and said they breached the principle that all New Zealanders should be treated equally by the law.

Harawira’s first road block at Whakapara on SH1 on March 26 did not start smoothly. Volunteers had chosen an unsuitable place for their checks and when police intervened they moved down the road but were allowed to continue.

So the Police condoned the vigilantes.

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