Neighbours dob in family over 'gathering' that turned out to be Zoom party

An Auckland couple say a neighbour dobbed them in for hosting a party in their house on Saturday - but there was only the two of them in their bubble, celebrating a relative's birthday via Zoom video call.

"Maybe they just didn't like our loud, out-of-tune singing," Tok Tobeck jokes.

Tobeck and her husband were puzzled to receive a visit from two police officers on Sunday, talking about a complaint of a "party on their property". It was only after a little while that "the penny dropped" and they realised the officers had to be referring to their Zoom party on Saturday, when they joined a video call to celebrate their niece's 17th birthday.

"My niece is in her bubble in Manurewa. The call included her grandmother, her mother, and a couple of other aunties as well," Tobeck told The New Zealand Herald.

"It was just me and my husband here but maybe we were louder than we thought," she added.

Tobeck was out grocery shopping when two police officers visited the property on Clarks Beach on Sunday. Her husband said he had trouble understanding them through the masks but they were adamant they had the correct address and that a neighbour had complained about them breaching lockdown rules and hosting a party at their house on Saturday afternoon.

"It just makes no sense. Apart from the noise, there were no cars on the driveway, because it's just us in here. We sang happy birthday quite loudly and out of tune and we actually sang it twice because my daughter, who lives in Dunedin, joined the call a bit late," Tobeck recalls.

Tobeck is a midwife and says that, as a health professional, she is very strict about following alert level rules so she was baffled to receive a visit from police about something like this. "I'm really particular about it, I don't want to give Covid to anyone."

While she agrees with people dobbing in others when they suspect bubbles are being burst, she believes there needs to be stricter rules around the evidence that needs to be provided, to avoid police making unnecessary house visits.

"It's just ridiculous. We must have been on this Zoom call for a quarter of an hour all up. We live on a quarter acre section, we have people on either side of us but we're not right next door to each other," the woman added.

While she is now seeing the funny side of this, she worries other people could have felt intimidated by that kind of police visit.

"If people can file these reports like that [without any evidence], it makes you wonder how many of these incidents are happening."

Contacted by the Herald, a police spokesperson said authorities have, to date, received a total of 9,767 online breach reports. Of those, only 86 people have been charged and 183 people formally warned.

Tobeck says her husband had trouble understanding the police officers through their masks but they left after he explained the two had joined a Zoom party and sang happy birthday to their niece the day before. "We don't know if that's it, or if anything happens next," she said.

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