Man accused of Wanaka lockdown escape is son of high-ranking official

The man who allegedly breached lockdown by fleeing Auckland for a Wanaka holiday home is the son of a high-ranking official.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult called the actions of the 35-year-old and his 26-year-old partner “unbelievably selfish”.

Police were equally scathing of the couple’s actions, calling them "calculated and deliberate" and saying they would be prosecuted.

The pair used a travel exemption as essential workers to go from Auckland to Hamilton on Thursday last week.

Police allege the pair then flew from Hamilton to Queenstown (via Wellington) before renting a vehicle and driving to Wanaka.

They were spoken to by officers on Saturday afternoon and indicated they would return home.

Lake Wanaka. Pnoto: ODT files
Lake Wanaka. Photo: ODT files

Police said they were now considering charges under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

If found guilty of breaching the health order, the couple could be fined or imprisoned.

Neither the man nor his parents have responded to requests from the Otago Daily Times for comment.

However, Auckland-based lawyer Rachael Reed QC confirmed she was acting for both parties.

The ODT visited the holiday home this afternoon and a person inside responded, asking that they vacate the property.

A neighbour said he was stunned to discover the home was behind his property.

The man, who did not want to be named, said he had "no idea" the property was down the lane next to his house until reporters started knocking at his door today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the largest shipments will arrive in the latter half of July....
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ
The Prime Minister appeared to reference the case at her 4pm media briefing today where she spoke about the risk of Covid-19 escaping Auckland, which is a key reason why New Zealand outside Auckland is staying in Alert Level 2 until at least next Tuesday.

"Unfortunately we have seen in recent days an example, despite the checks we have in place, people using some of the reasons for movement to get through," Jacinda Ardern said. 

She did not want to comment further on the case because it was with police, but did comment generally, saying: "The rules are not there to be gamed."

"Aucklanders would take a very dim view of other Aucklanders who aren't doing their bit, because they have for a long time and very diligently."

Ms Ardern announced at the briefing that Auckland would remain at Level 4 until next Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Boult was initially speechless after being told of the unwelcome visitors to Wanaka, but that soon turned to fury.

"We are all aware of the pain that Auckland is going through at the moment. The last thing we want is to be in the same position," he said.

"These people are endangering not only the health of folk in this part of the world but also their livelihoods, as things are tough enough down here at the moment."

Mr Boult said he failed to understand why the couple thought their actions were acceptable, and also wanted answers as to how they had been able to travel south at all.

"This mustn’t happen again. There was another similar incident last week, so clearly if people are determined to do it then they can do it, but it can’t happen.

“It’s astounding that this couple has felt they had the right to put each and every one in our district’s communities at risk during a global pandemic so they could partake in skiing.

"It’s simply not acceptable that a handful of people continue to flout the restrictions and think they do not apply to them."

Mr Boult this afternoon said he understood the couple had been granted an exemption to travel back home across the essential travel boundary.

"The Police have been very clear publicly in their intentions to take the matter further and I trust that they will address this appropriately.

“I know many in our district, and particularly around Wānaka, will be concerned at the risk this couple may have introduced to the community. Although I am not at liberty to go into detail, after discussion with central government health officials, I am able to say that I have no ongoing concerns for the health of folk in our district.

"I take comfort in that reassurance and hope that the people of Wānaka can too.”

 mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz/additional reporting Rob Kidd and Kerrie Waterworth

 

 

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