Coronavirus: Hone Harawira, Don Brash clash over use of community roadblocks

Former National Party leader Don Brash has clashed with Mana Movement leader and former Māori Party MP Hone Harawira over the use of community roadblocks to stop non-locals from entering designated areas during lockdown.

On March 22, Mana Movement shared a rallying call for the implementation of stringent measures to protect Northland residents on both Harawira's personal Facebook and the Mana Movement's public page.

The post claims backpackers and tourists are "rolling into PAK'nSAVE without protective face masks and without self-isolating for 14 days".

According to the 2018 Census, more than 40 percent of the district's population is Māori. Māori have frequently been identified as an at-risk demographic due to common, underlying health issues which are believed to cause complications with COVID-19, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  

"Nothing is being done to stop them coming into our world without protection, so we will be," the post says.

Speaking to Sean Plunket on Magic Talk on Wednesday afternoon, Harawira says they decided to implement the roadblocks because "tens of thousands of tourists" were let into New Zealand and he "didn't want them" in their area.

"The Government said they were going to turn the New Zealand Defence Forces out to protect our people. They're not here. If they're not here, and we know from the police that they don't have enough local police to do the job, then somebody has to do it," he says.

"You really think that tourists would turn around and just all go back? You've got to understand, these guys coming into the country have been saving up for years to come here for a couple of weeks. Do you really think they're going to go to motels and just eat Weetbix for two weeks and then get on a plane and go home?

"Unless communities do something to protect themselves and their people and their old people in particular, they will continue to waltz in."

Another reason he created the roadblocks was to protect particularly the elderly community since they are more vulnerable in the COVID-19 crisis.

Harawira created the Tai Tokerau Border Control to do this, and says he's been speaking to local police and health authorities during this process.

He also claims a large majority of people have been supportive of his controls.

"Ninety-five percent of the people are overwhelmingly supportive of what we're doing, and even the tourists understand what we're doing."

Everyone who is helping Harawira with the border controls is volunteering to do so, and "safety is paramount" at each vehicle stop.

Everyone who engages with the public is fully clothed in white coveralls and is wearing face masks. They're also asked that, once they get home, they take a shower and wash their clothes before interacting with their family.

However, Don Brash appeared on Plunket's show later on Wednesday afternoon and called what Harawira was doing an "appalling situation".

"It's the most appalling situation and it's been going on for several days, and sadly we know it's going on in other parts of the country," Brash says.

He believes it is a breach of the principle that all New Zealanders "should be entitled" to the same protection of the law.

"I think the Government has to stomp on this idea that there are two different legal systems in New Zealand - one for the Māori ancestors and one for the rest of us."

Brash says that some areas of Aotearoa may need to establish their own quasi-police groups to stop non-locals from entering their community, but that should apply to only remote communities "no matter their ancestry".

"At the moment, it appears to be limited to those with a Māori ancestor, and I think that's an appalling precedent."

He would remove Harawira's volunteers "quite quickly" and ask them to clear the roads.

"If Hone were the only crackpot or dangerous radical in the place, you could say well Hone is Hone, let him be under these unusual circumstances, but at least make it clear that this is not to be tolerated for the future," Brash says.

"It can't be something which a local Māori tribe takes upon themselves to put in place."