'Gutting': Outrage in Wanaka over lockdown breach

The Wanaka community is upset at the "arrogant" attitude of the couple who drove from Auckland to Hamilton, using their "essential worker" exemptions, to then fly to Wanaka to stay at their holiday home.

Nick Aubrey, owner of Kai Whakapai on Wanaka's lakefront, says news of the lockdown breach by two Aucklanders is "a slap in the face for so many of us who are doing our bit".

"It just has the potential to cause such big harm. It's very frustrating because the community has been going above and beyond, trying to do the right thing.

"We're pissed off. I think you'll find everyone here is pissed off," he told The New Zealand Herald, calling the actions of the two Aucklanders "very selfish and irresponsible".

Auckland will remain at level 4 for another week, until 11.59pm on September 21. Level 2 will remain in place for the rest of New Zealand for another week, and Cabinet will review these settings on Monday next week.

A couple of doors down from the lakefront café, Becky Roberts, who owns homewares and jewellery store Thieving Kea, also doesn't hide her feelings over the situation.

"It's disgusting, it's gutting. Who do they think they are? We're vulnerable here, the whole community is vulnerable," she says.

Roberts believes the lockdown breach put the whole town at risk and says it's important that the couple are held accountable for their actions, to stop others from doing the same thing.

"I wish they were named and shamed. They need to be made an example of. They sound like wealthy people so a fine will be nothing to them. Thy need to be publicly embarrassed so they don't do it again. And to stop others from thinking about doing the same thing," she said.

Wanaka. File photo: ODT
Wanaka. File photo: ODT

Charlie Hayne, duty manager at the Lake Bar, says everyone in town that he has heard from is "pretty upset".

"It's so arrogant and selfish. We don't know where else they've been, we don't know if they're sick."

Hayne says the whole town has been working hard to follow the rules and keep Covid out, and businesses are hurting badly from the latest lockdown, as well as the situation in Auckland.

"Business is really tough at the moment at level 2. On a busy day, we'd have 250 people in here at once, but the limit of 50 people inside makes things very difficult," he says.

Hayne is hopeful Wanaka can soon move to level 1 so those limits on indoor gatherings can increase.

As for the Auckland absconders, who have since returned to the city, his hope is that they get "the book thrown at them".

Wanaka Ward Councillor Quentin Smith also told the Herald the whole community is upset at the news that level 4 people have been able to sneak into town.

"Needless to say, it has been not welcomed by the Wanaka community and it is widely considered selfish and thoughtless," he said.

According to police, the Auckland couple reportedly used essential worker exemptions to cross the boundary and drive to Hamilton Airport on Thursday, September 9. Once there, they boarded a commercial flight and travelled to Queenstown via Wellington.

In Queenstown, the couple hired a car and drove across to Wanaka.

The couple were dobbed in online, through the Covid-19 compliance reporting tool. Police found the pair on Saturday afternoon.

After being spoken to by police the couple indicated they would return to their usual place of residence, in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health has been notified.

Asked about the actions of the absconders during her alert level announcement this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that while she does not know the full details of this particular case, her general comment is that "everyone needs to play their part" and "the rules are not there to be gamed".

"Aucklanders would take a very dim view of other Aucklanders who are not doing their bit," she added.




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