Queenstown businessman charged over lockdown travel

The Otago Daily Times understands the man was visiting family in Auckland when New Zealand went...
The Otago Daily Times understands the man was visiting family in Auckland when New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown on August 17. Photo: ODT files
A Queenstown businessman appears to have breached Covid-19 lockdown rules by flying out of Auckland without an exemption during lockdown.

In a statement, a police media spokeswoman said Queenstown police were made aware on Thursday the 41-year-old man had travelled to the resort after flying from Auckland to Christchurch on September 1.

He has been summoned to appear in the Queenstown District Court on September 27 on a charge of failing to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

‘‘Inquiries are ongoing to establish his exact movements during this part of his journey.’’

Police were liaising with health officials about how to manage the situation, the spokeswoman said.

The Otago Daily Times understands the man was visiting family in Auckland when New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown on August 17.

The man did not respond to a request for comment by deadline yesterday.

A Ministry of Health spokesman said the case was ‘‘disappointing’’ because a disregard for Auckland’s Level 4 rules could put the wider community at risk.

Public health officials in Queenstown had carried out a health assessment of the man, but he presented a ‘‘very low public health risk’’.

Exemptions to Level 4 restrictions for personal movement were granted by the director-general of health only in ‘‘exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis’’, the spokesman said.

An Aviation Security Service (Avsec) spokesman said it could not comment on the details of the case as it was now a police matter.

‘‘AvSec does not keep records of those passengers that we interact with, nor do we have any lawful powers to deny terminal entry.

‘‘To a large degree we are relying on the honesty and integrity of those people who elect to travel during a lockdown scenario, and it is always disappointing when individuals act recklessly and let the team of 5 million down.”

However, the breach follows a tightening of Avsec’s procedures at all major airports last week after two students were caught breaching lockdown rules by flying out of Auckland, including a University of Otago student who flew to Dunedin.

An Avsec statement on September 3 said the changes, which took effect on August 31, required a passenger to show a security officer their boarding pass and an eligibility document before they could walk through the airport’s doors.

If they did not meet the requirements, they could not enter, and if they objected, the police would be called.

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

 

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