Man who escaped lockdown for ski trip convicted, discharged

Israel Lochhead, left, and Amos Lochhead during an earlier appearance in the Auckland District...
Israel Lochhead, left, and Amos Lochhead during an earlier appearance in the Auckland District Court on charges of breaching Covid-19 lockdown border restrictions to go skiing. Photo: Jason Oxenham
An Auckland man who used an essential worker pass to take an illegal ski sojourn during the city’s lengthy Covid lockdown in 2021 has been convicted and discharged.

But his two co-offenders and flatmates at the time of the escapade are at large, with one subject to an active warrant to arrest after failing to show up to the Auckland District Court.

Brothers Amos and Israel Lochhead, and Joshua Schluter, obtained legitimate essential worker passes to leave Auckland, then under a strict level 4 lockdown, to travel to Christchurch for business in September 2021.

They were allowed through the Auckland border on September 15 by police manning the cordons.

Instead of travelling straight to Christchurch as their passes required, they diverted to Ohakune where they checked into a motel for a planned two-day ski trip.

As a result of what Judge Stephen Bonnar KC described as an “unrelated incident” on Ruapehu while the trio were on the mountain, police were called and it became apparent they were in breach of the Covid-19 orders in place at the time.

They were arrested and later pleaded guilty to breaching a Covid-19 Public Health Response Order.

Only Amos Lochhead, 20, appeared for the trio’s sentencing on Thursday in the Auckland District Court.

His brother Israel’s lawyer presented a medical note to the court that was deemed inadequate by Judge Bonnar. The judge issued a warrant for his arrest that will lie in the District Court until 4pm Friday, when it will be activated unless he turns up to the court or provides an adequate medical certificate.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of Schluter in May after he failed to appear for an earlier hearing.

Amos’ lawyer Luke Ameye said he acted under the influence of his brother, who is five years older. The brothers have since fallen out, the court heard.

Ameye sought a conviction and discharge, unopposed by police.

Ameye submitted his client recognised a conviction would have consequences for his future employment, but nevertheless Amos was choosing not to advance an application for a discharge without conviction.

Judge Bonnar granted the application for a conviction and discharge.

“The courts recognise that sometimes young people do stupid things,” the judge said.

By George Block and Craig Kapitan