COVID-19: Police step in as 'unauthorised' community roadblock set up at Manaia

Police commissioner Andrew Coster is reminding the public his officers and other agencies are responsible for enforcing COVID-19 alert level 4 rules, after a community roadblock was set up in Coromandel on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would enter COVID-19 alert level 4 for three days, and Auckland and Coromandel seven, following the discovery of a community case.

The alert level changes came into effect at 11:59pm and on Tuesday night, a small group of locals set up a roadblock on State Highway 25 at Manaia - preventing anyone trying to travel to Coromandel and spend the snap lockdown at their baches. Non-essential travel is banned under alert level 4.

A police spokesperson told Newshub officers were working with the group of local iwi members.

"We are working with the group and actively engaging with any drivers who stop to educate them about the dangers of COVID-19 and encourage them to comply with the alert level 4 restrictions," the spokesperson said on Tuesday night.

"No arrests have been made."

Newshub reporter Shannon Redstall, who's in Coromandel, said some people were turned around on Tuesday night but select locals were let through.

"They're just trying to protect their kaumatua, kuia, and whanau. They're worried, know they're vulnerable, and don't want to be put at further risk."

However, Coster has since clarified the police's stance on checkpoints.

"Police is aware of one unauthorised community checkpoint that was put in place in the Coromandel yesterday evening," he said in a statement.

"We understand that some small and isolated communities feel particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, however, as during previous COVID-19 alert level 4 restriction periods, there should be no need for community checkpoints.

"Police and other agencies remain responsible for ensuring that people comply with the restrictions under the different COVID-19 alert levels and all engagement is done for the purpose of keeping all of our communities safe."

During last year's first COVID-19 lockdown, rules around community roadblocks were altered after reports of people being intimidated by operators. Checkpoints can only be operated if there's also a police presence and can't stop people moving for legitimate reasons. 

There are now five community cases of COVID-19 in Aotearoa - all liked to the original infection who has the Delta variant. 

An increasing number of locations of interest have been identified, most of which are in Coromandel, as officials scramble to get ahead of the outbreak. 

The original case visited Coromandel at the weekend and visited several cases in the township.

Health officials will provide an update on the situation at 1pm.