Kaitiaki block ‘particularly dangerous’ anti-vax protesters at Auckland border

Te Hana checkpoint
Te Hana checkpoint north of Auckland ... 50 people from anti-vax and anti-lockdown groups were turned around. Image: Sam Olley/RNZ

By Sam Olley, RNZ News reporter

Ngāti Whātua kaitiaki remain in bolstered numbers at the border between Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Tokerau to stop protesters getting through.

Together with Navy and police staff at Te Hana, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua has turned around about 50 people from anti-vax and anti-lockdown groups throughout this morning.

Chief operating officer Antony Thompson (Ngāti Whātua) told RNZ protesters had come from both sides of the border to meet up, but none got through.

“About 20 to 25 who got started protesting … after probably about 10 minutes they were moved on.”

His team respected the right to protest but it was the wrong place and wrong time, with a growing covid-19 cluster in the Far North, he said.

“The majority of them [protesters] have dispersed, or gone home. And there’s maybe a handful of, I guess ‘hold outs’, that are hoping that more cars turn up and they can go through together.”

The rūnanga would much rather be vaccinating whānau than having to protect them from rule-breakers, Thompson said.

“Recently our whaea Dame Naida Glavish quoted ‘this hoo-ha, this hōhā’ and it really is.”

‘Incredibly disappointed’
Police said they were “incredibly disappointed” by those rallying.

In a statement this afternoon, police said more officers had been deployed to monitor “hīkoi” activity.

“Police have additional staff deployed, including our Iwi Liaison Officers, to both monitor the hīkoi travelling north as well as additional staff in Waitangi,” the statement said.

“Our focus is to ensure the current restrictions set out in the Health Order are adhered to by those involved as well as working to support our Iwi partners in Northland.

“We are working closely with our partners, including leadership of Te Tii Marae, who have indicated that the protesters are not welcome this year due to the risk posed by the delta strain of covid-19.”

Another group of protesters attempted to make it through Auckland’s southern border late on Tuesday evening, and some remained there today, blocking State Highway 1.

The chair of Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi-O-Ngāpuhi Wane Wharerau (Ngāpuhi, Te Māhurehure, Uri Kaiwhare, Ngāitawake ki te Waoku / Ngāitawake ki te Tūawhenua / Ngāitawake ki te Tairāwhiti, Ngāti Hine-Mutu) also put out a statement this morning.

The protesters were “particularly dangerous” attempting to get to Waitangi, he said.

Recognising ‘real Māori freedom fighters’
“It is disappointing that organisers are using He Whakaputanga, or the Declaration of Independence, as a means to bring attention to their cause.

“Ngāpuhi recognise and honour the real Māori freedom fighters whose lifelong activism and personal sacrifice meant something and moved our people forward; freedom fighters such as Eva Rickard, Dame Whina Cooper, Titewhai Harawira, Dr Matire Harwood, Rima Edwards, Matiu Rata, Sir James Henare, and Dame Cindy Kiro just to name a few.

“Almost every Ngāpuhi urupā has evidence of the thousands of whānau, some in unmarked graves,” he said, referring to those who died in the 1918 flu pandemic.

“Now, little more than 100 years after that pandemic, Te Tai Tokerau is at the point of a similar threat, but this time we have a vaccine at our disposal.

“We have not fought this virus for 20 months and tolerated the harsh restrictions around tangihanga, gathering at marae and visiting whānau, to abandon this plan now.”

New Zealand reported 74 new community cases of covid-19 today — the lowest tally for several days. There were 68 in Auckland and six in Waikato.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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