Aucklanders forging letters, driving through paddocks to escape lockdown

Health authorities have had a re-think about people in managed isolation getting out for some...
Auckland is currently in an Alert Level 4 lockdown. Photo: Getty Images
Driving through paddocks, faking Covid tests and forging exemption letters - they're all strategies people have used while trying to escape Auckland in recent days.

And they've all failed, according to police.

Police said in a statement there were still "a few isolated incidents" where people tried to breach the alert level 4 boundaries.

One vehicle had been nabbed after its driver tried to evade a southern border checkpoint at Pukekawa by cutting through paddocks.

"Staff with local knowledge caught up with this vehicle further south of the checkpoint heading toward Huntly. They were turned around and issued with an infringement notice."

Another person had tried to bluff their way through the Mercer checkpoint with an exemption they had written themselves. They were warned and turned around, police said.

And one couple had given staff at Mercer a letter stating they had completed Covid tests yesterday - but staff had soon worked out the testing location was shut on the day in question. They were turned around and told to get a test at a facility that was actually open.

"Police will continue to stop and question motorists travelling through the checkpoint and enforcement action will be considered for people deliberately attempting to breach the restrictions, which are in place to help keep everyone safe and reduce any spread of Covid-19 in the community."

Auckland is in alert level 4 while the rest of New Zealand is in level 2, with people only allowed to cross the border in or out of the city under strict circumstances.

Cabinet will decide tomorrow whether the city can move to level 3, which would loosen some restrictions - but it's likely the strict borders will remain in place.

In figures released to the Herald last week, a Ministry spokeswoman said just 170 of the 3900 exemption applications had been approved for Aucklanders to leave the city.

There have been at least seven incidents, involving 16 people leaving the region over the last few days.

In the latest case, two people - a 24-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man - were arrested on Saturday in Wellington after allegedly travelling from Auckland in breach of alert level restrictions.

They pair been charged with failing to comply with Covid-19 order and are expected to appear in Wellington District Court on Monday, a police spokeswoman said.

In another case, a high-profile Aucklander allegedly crossed the boundary and made onward travel to Queenstown.

A person who contacted the Otago Daily Times alleged this Aucklander was staying at a Queenstown Airbnb and had attended a gathering at the resort last weekend.

The tipster who wanted to remain anonymous said the Aucklander wasn't isolating and was spending time with two other Queenstown residents.

A police spokeswoman said they were aware of the complaint, and were following up with the person involved to determine if any breach of the Health Act has occurred.

On Friday, two Aucklanders were arrested after they used false documents to visit Taupō, police say.

Three Auckland students have also been referred to health authorities after they travelled from Auckland to Tauranga last week.

The Herald received a tip that a student - part of the group - had reportedly travelled to Tauranga to attend a class at a tertiary education provider.

A police spokesperson said officers spoke to the group and no further action from police was required.

Officers had to also address three university students from Auckland after they allegedly crossed the alert level border illegally on their way to Gisborne. They were found on Thursday at residences in Gisborne and Te Karaka.

According to police, the trio had been self-isolating at their homes since they travelled to Gisborne on September 8.

Three essential workers who last week escaped Auckland for the Turoa ski field were arrested last Thursday in Ohakune.

Then there was William Willis, 35, and his lawyer partner Hannah Rawnsley, 26, who used their essential work exemptions to get to Hamilton before flying to Wanaka. The pair has since apologised after declining to continue pursuing name suppression.

The Herald had also received tips claiming people are bypassing the southern border by using two dirt roads unmanned by police.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman said travel into and out of Auckland was highly restricted.

"We appreciate this can be very distressing for some people...but the highly transmissible Delta variant means strong precautions are necessary," she said.

"We are taking a very cautious approach to applications for personal travel exemptions to travel across or within the Alert Level boundaries. Exemptions are only granted in the most exceptional circumstances, on a case-by-case basis, and only where this is consistent with the public health response to Covid-19."

The spokeswoman said the boundary controls remained crucial to minimising further spread of the virus.

"They reflect the highly transmissible nature of the Delta variant, and are designed to minimise the spread of the virus to other parts of New Zealand – ultimately to keep the whole country safe," she said.

"The Ministry acknowledges the inconvenience and concern caused by Auckland's Alert Level boundaries."

Police said as of 5pm Friday, 78 people from Auckland have been charged with a total of 82 offences since lockdown, most for failing to comply with the Covid-19 order.

Others include failing comply with direction, prohibition and or restriction, two for assaulting, threatening and/or hindering and enforcement officer and one for failing to stop at a checkpoint.

Health officials say they are "cautiously optimistic" that Auckland will be able to move out of alert level 4 this week despite a smattering of few unlinked cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week indicated an in-principle decision that Auckland would move to level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday, September 21.

Comments

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought lockdown meant you couldn't get in or out! Obviously this is another failure in a system that doesn't work. Still trying to figure out why the south cant enjoy the covid free life we have enjoyed for nigh on a year...oh that's right, this government can't get it right so we all suffer.

If Auckland was in a true lock down that would mean no stock for grocery stores or travel from the far North to the Central north island.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter