Coronavirus: Boaties flock to Waiheke Island for Easter weekend despite lockdown

Police are on the watch for boaties heading to islands off Auckland for the long Easter weekend.

With New Zealand under a nationwide lockdown, Kiwis are instructed to remain at their residences and not make any unnecessary trips away. That includes not heading out on the boat for Easter. 

But one Waiheke local told Newshub Oneroa Bay saw an influx of vessels ahead of the long weekend.

"Before [there] was just one boat, now there are dozens and this is just one beach," the local said.

The local said there was initially just a single boat.
The local said there was initially just a single boat. Photo credit: Supplied.
More boats arrived before the weekend, the local said.
More boats arrived before the weekend, the local said. Photo credit: Supplied.

Police's Beth Houliston, the Auckland City District operations support manager, told Newshub that throughout the alert level 4 lockdown, the police maritime unit has been conducting regular patrols near islands like Waiheke and Great Barrier. 

This Easter weekend would be no different. 

"Recreational maritime activities such as boating and fishing are not permitted," Houliston said.

"Anyone found not complying will be spoken to, and further action may be taken for those refusing to comply."

She said police have already spoken to a number of boaties during the lockdown period, including off the main islands. While the majority of people were compliant, some boaties have been told to return to Auckland and others have been given warnings. 

"Some people are living on their boats for the duration of the isolation period and have been spoken to to ensure they’re aware of the restrictions in place," Houliston said.

"We are not immediately aware of any arrests being made in relation to boaties breaching lockdown restrictions while out on the water. 

"Ultimately, Police do not want to resort to taking enforcement action, but we will if necessary in order to help keep our community safe."

People towing boats or at boat ramps will also be questioned by police, she said. 

One resident on Great Barrier Island said boaties were coming ashore and utilising the island's resources.

"We have a freight boat that comes over on Tuesday. One boat had come over to the island and ordered groceries, and someone from the community had witnessed him coming to get his freight straight off the wharf, 14 banana boxes of food. That's utilising resources that the community needs and our people need to bring their food in," Kelly Klink of Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea told RNZ.

Last Friday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield issued a notice under Section 70(1)(f) of the Health Act 1956 to provide greater clarity about self-isolation expectations. The notice highlights that Kiwis must stay at their residence unless it is for "essential personal movement", and while out, they must maintain physical distancing. 

"Essential personal movement" includes accessing essential businesses or providing essential services as well as for leaving the house for "limited recreation purposes". That does not include "swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services".

Police set up checkpoints along several key routes on Thursday in anticipation of people heading away on Easter trips. At one Tasman checkpoint, eight groups of travellers heading north for the break were stopped and told to return to Christchurch.

Overall, have been more than 360 breaches of the lockdown rules. The lockdown is scheduled to end in just under two weeks, but it is open to extension.

Have you seen boaties breaking the rules? Contact jamieensor@mediaworks.co.nz

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