COVID-19: Over 600 lockdown restriction breaches reported to police

A whopping 684 reports have been made to police over COVID-19 alert level breaches - a third of which were in Auckland.

New Zealand entered alert level four on Tuesday night in response to a new community case of COVID-19 - the first in 170 days.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said while the "vast majority" of Kiwis have been abiding by the lockdown rules, they have also received hundreds of reports about potential breaches.

"Since online breach reporting began at midnight on 17 August to 5pm yesterday, police received 684 online breach notifications in total. About a third of those were from the Tāmaki Makaurau [Auckland] area.

"Of those reports, 322 were about a gathering, 320 about a business and 42 about an individual."

Over the past two days police have also carried out over 2500 tasks relating to level four restrictions, including reassurance visits to essential facilities, patrols, and checks following reports about people, businesses and gatherings potentially in breach. 

"Police will assess every notification received and follow up where required," Coster said.

"We thank those who have been in contact to make a report or pass on their concerns about potential breach activity."

Police are taking an education-first approach to the new mask mandate for essential services, encouraging people to do the right thing first. However, Coster assured enforcement action will be taken where necessary.

"We want to ensure people understand that all New Zealanders have a role to play in keeping each other safe, especially given the serious danger of the Delta variant. 

"Repeated breaches or refusal to comply with Police will result in enforcement, either through infringement notices, or arrests and court action if necessary."

This comes after an anti-lockdown protest in Auckland on Wednesday where four people - including conspiracy theorists Billy Te Kahika and Vinny Eastwood - were arrested.

Police confirmed two men, aged 49 and 36, are set to appear in Auckland District Court on Thursday, each facing two charges under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and one charge under the Search and Surveillance Act 2021.

A 52-year-old woman also arrested is due to appear on 25 August facing one charge under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, and one charge under the Search and Surveillance Act 2021.

Anti-lockdown protests also took place in Nelson and Tauranga, but of the four people arrested in Tauranga, three were issued with formal warnings.

A 56-year-old woman is due to appear in Tauranga District Court on August 23 facing one charge under the Health Act.

Other breaches of the lockdown restrictions include motorists attempting to leave major New Zealand cities.

"People should be isolating at home under COVID-19 level four restrictions but if you need to drive, for essential purposes, slow down and drive to the conditions," said Inspector Wade Jennings.

He said Wellington Police had issued 111 infringement notices on Wednesday to motorists for speeding.

"Don't think because there are fewer vehicles on the road that you can speed," he said.

One driver was travelling at 160km/h with several others caught speeding between 130km/h and145km/h.