Community COVID-19 roadblocks must now have a police presence after repeated reports of Kiwis being harassed and illegally detained by the volunteers running them.
There has been a swathe of reports in recent weeks of Kiwis feeling unsafe and being intimidated by the volunteers running the checkpoints, who have been imposing the coronavirus alert level 4 lockdown rules despite having no authority to do so.
This week, a man in his 70s was reportedly held at a community roadblock by a gang member during a drive to buy some milk. Another incident earlier this month saw a Kaikohe couple "harassed and illegally detained" at a Te Tai Tokerau roadblock.
Since the incidents, National MPs Matt King and Gerry Brownlee and Police Minister Stuart Nash have called for there to be greater regulation of community checkpoints - and on Thursday, police answered.
Speaking to media from the Beehive on Thursday, the Police Commissioner said it would be assessing the role of community roadblocks in partnership with local authorities, Civil Defence, local Iwi and community groups.
Andrew Coster said while small and isolated communities feel as though they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, police does not encourage the use of community roadblocks to police them.
It said roadblocks would only be allowed to operate if they are operated by district police, in conjunction with volunteers.
"Police and other agencies remain responsible for ensuring that people comply with the restrictions under the different COVID-19 alert levels," he said.
"Where communities have determined to undertake checkpoints to prevent the spread of COVID-19, police is working with those communities and other agencies to ensure checkpoints are safe and not preventing lawful use of the road."
If COVID-19 checkpoints are deemed necessary for the overall safety and wellbeing of a community, police say they must:
- Be operated by district police alongside community member.
- Be conducted in a safe manner, according to Police operational guidelines and practices.
- Be guided by the relevant alert level status as set out in the Government’s COVID-19 response.
- Not restrict access for people moving through for legitimate purposes.