Auckland boundary lifts after months of lockdown

The scene at Auckland Airport early this morning. Photo: RNZ
The scene at Auckland Airport early this morning. Photo: RNZ
After four months locked behind the Auckland border, residents of New Zealand's biggest city are finally free to travel beyond the region's boundary from today.

It is the first time the borders around the city have been lifted since the country was plunged into level 4 lockdown on August 17, and thousands of people are expected to flood out by air and by road.

More than 12,000 people are booked to fly out of Auckland today, including 1700 who are flying to Christchurch – the most popular route from the city.

Auckland Airport has advised passengers to arrive at the terminal an hour before the scheduled departure.

Queenstown is another popular destination - the first of 11 flights from Auckland today is scheduled to arrive at Queenstown Airport at 8.35am.

It's been 117 days since a flight from the city of sails landed in the resort, and the town's operators are feeling the economic pinch. Aucklanders account for almost a third of domestic tourism spending in the Queenstown Lakes district.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says it is the first day that all customers are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test before boarding the plane.

"We're one of the few airlines in the world that actually does this domestically and I'm pleased that we've done it, pleased that we've been able to do it so quickly and in a pretty seamless manner."

Foran says extra security has been brought in as people adjust to the new system.

He says the Air New Zealand crew are really enthusiastic and think it's great to be back.

The rapid antigen tests will be available at around 600 New Zealand pharmacies from today.

Queenstown Airport welcomes back Aucklanders. Photo: RNZ
Queenstown Airport welcomes back Aucklanders. Photo: RNZ
The Ministry of Health says 250,000 tests have been dispatched to pharmacies, but some were still waiting on stock the afternoon before the rollout.

Aucklanders are also travelling out of the city by road today. 

Police said traffic was flowing freely early this morning.

Waka Kotahi and the police removed checkpoints to the north and south of the region following the midnight change in restrictions.

Spot checks are happening on roads out of the city, at the airport, and at two new checkpoints in Northland.

The new checkpoints were set at Uretiti on SH1 and on SH12 at Maungaturoto, for northbound traffic only.


Persistent wild conditions across the country could affect some travel plans this week, with severe weather warnings in place for parts of the North Island and upper South Island.

Heavy rain lashed parts of Auckland yesterday afternoon, and Auckland from Whangaparāoa Peninsula northwards, including Great Barrier Island, has a watch in place until 5am.

Parts of Feilding and Manawatū have been left under water, and people in Bay of Plenty are being warned of bouts of heavy rain until 11am today.

Cyclone Ruby continues to move over New Caledonia as a strong Category 2 storm, with WeatherWatch warning it could bring wild weather and flooding to parts of the North Island.

Waka Kotahi advised motorists to expect delays as barriers were dismantled at boundary checkpoints that had been in place for more than 100 days. Southbound traffic was told last night to expect road closures from 10pm to 1am, when the border would be officially removed.

Stop/go traffic management would also be in place for motorists travelling into Auckland.

AA is urging motorists to expect busy roads. Other countries had seen a surge in crashes when regions came out of lockdown-type conditions.


Te Tai Tokerau Border Control leader Hone Harawira has been at the northern checkpoint at Waipū overnight.

He says it has been quiet and most of the traffic has been at a normal level

But he told RNZ's Morning Report he doesn't feel enough people are being checked for their vaccine passport or negative test and he will be talking to police.

He says the iwi members working on the checkpoint now need to be vetted by police and there are delays in getting the approvals back, limiting the number of people who can take part.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua is working with the police to check vaccine passes or negative Covid-19 test results near Maungaturoto.

Spokesperson Antony Thompson says it's been a relatively quiet morning, which could be because of the bad weather.

He expects the traffic will pick up further over the weekend.

Northland District Commander superintendent Tony Hill says while they're not checking everybody, they do want to check most people.

The police are also conducting random spot checks to ensure travellers are vaccinated, or have received a negative Covid-19 test result.

 - NZ Herald/RNZ