COVID-19: 'Thousands' of cars backed up in 4-hour wait at Auckland border in 'scorching' heat

Motorists trying to get home to a locked-down Auckland are facing wait times of up to four hours as "thousands" of cars bank up at the southern border checkpoint.

Auckland was moved to alert level 3 at 6am on Sunday while the rest of the country moved to level 2 following two new community cases of COVID-19 on Saturday night.

Rania Alani was in Tauranga for work over the weekend and hit the road early to avoid the rush, only to spend almost three hours moving a kilometre distance at the Auckland-Waikato checkpoint.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad, to be honest," she says. "Leaving Auckland makes sense but coming back was a nightmare."

Tristan Dean got stuck waiting four hours at the same checkpoint as he headed home to Auckland from Ohakune.

He says there were "thousands and thousands" of cars "backed up for miles". 

"We've just seen the queue for leaving Auckland and it's backed up for miles as well, just at a standstill."

Dean says cattle trucks were having to be escorted through the traffic as livestock were overheating, as well as people taking their horses out of floats and walking them alongside the road.

Without realising how long it would take to get through Alani and Dean both had no food in the car.

"I feel sorry for the people that had kids," says Alani.

"You'd think that it could take like an extra half-hour or an hour. I was completely unprepared. I had no water, no food in the car, it was scorching hot even with the AC."

Dean says the line was made up of two lanes before merging into one a kilometre out from the checkpoint.

"They pretty much closed SH2 where SH2 and SH1 pretty much come together and they made us go off that ramp so it was literally one long line," Alani says.

She says police were checking cars in one single file line when there was space for two.

"There were four policemen standing in a line instead of creating two lines for people to maybe go a little bit faster.

"They were in the scorching heat with masks and jackets. I felt sorry for everyone in the situation."

Police have now asked the public to delay their travel if possible due to the "significant delays".

"Police report the public has been cooperative and understanding, we thank motorists for their patience," a spokesperson says in a statement.

"We are actively trying to ease the congestion as quickly as possible. Those who are stopped will be asked about their reason for travel."

Dean felt like the checking wasn't thorough enough to warrant such a long line.

"It was sorta 'where are you heading' and they let you through, it all seemed a bit pointless."

Alani says she understands having a strict checkpoint for people trying to leave the city but she felt as if having her license checked to ensure she was an Auckland resident was excessive.

"I feel like this was a little intense especially because who would want to come back to a lockdown?"