Great Barrier Island remaining at level 4 with Auckland

On Tuesday, an island that hasn't had a single COVID case will stay at level 4. And no, it's not the South Island.

It may be nearly a hundred kilometres out into the Hauraki Gulf, but Aotea / Great Barrier Island is under all the same lockdown rules as the rest of the Auckland region.

"It is a little strange, but we are part of the Auckland Super City region, so yeah it's just how it rolls," says local board chair Izzy Fordham.

Great Barrier Island is a place used to isolation. It's part of the appeal.

"People here love it. They like the isolation, they like not being around people, they're happy to stay home and play in their gardens and have a rest," says Steve Crawley, owner of the Mulberry Grove cafe and store in Tryphena.

But lockdown's starting to give some of the island's 900 residents itchy feet.

"I mean we are an island of fishers, and hunters, and divers, and lots of our folks surf, so we're very outdoorsy," says Fordham.

"The community seems to be coping OK at this stage. However, things may change somewhat when we get into the next two weeks of lockdown," she adds.

Because even though it's way out in the Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island is bound by the same rules as the likes of Grey Lynn and Glenfield.

Meaning when the rest of New Zealand moves to level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday, it will stay at level 4.

"I guess COVID can strike anywhere, particularly if there are people who live on the island that have to travel to Auckland for particular reasons, it may be medical treatment, that are then coming back to the island," explains Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

One tourism operator Newshub spoke to says they had unusually good September bookings. That's all gone.

But the island's residents know what's at stake. Just one case of COVID on the island would be devastating.

"We've got a small population, a small medical centre, we've got four respirators, and 25 percent of the population is over 65," says Crawley.

Barrier Air's helping to keep things moving. Daily flights bring in essential supplies, workers, and mail, and take back things like COVID swabs and blood tests.

"We know most of the people on the island by their first name. It's good to be able to continue supplying this essential service to them," says Barrier Air's CEO Grant Bacon.

Barrier Air also usually helps ship over residents' online supermarket orders, something that was hampered when Countdown's distribution store in Manurewa became a location of interest.

"There's been issues around stores that we usually get our food from closing for COVID cleaning, and we've been working with them to ensure supply. This week's been quite rough, but ultimately we've got surety from Countdown and Pak'nSave that we can get our orders from tomorrow," Bacon says.

Steve Crawley's store is one of just four open on the island. It's also one of the only places to get fuel.

He's seen the supermarket queues on the mainland and isn't having a bar of it.

"It's essentials only. I don't let anybody in my shop. I've got it set up so they come to a corner window and I've got a big fan working there so that nobody's breath can blow into the shop," he explains.

And while the remote island looks like the perfect place to lock down away from the hubbub, there's a warning to stay away.

"Yes, we have had some try, but they haven't been successful, especially if they try to come by plane or Sealink," laughs Fordham.

A police spokesperson told Newshub they weren't immediately aware of any issues raised by police on Great Barrier Island during this lockdown.

Crawley believes that's because the boaties learned their lesson from last time.

"The locals would be out there with their spears. There's no way they would allow anybody coming ashore, or any boats. They'd be straight onto the police," says Crawley.

An island used to doing things differently, and ready to do it for a few weeks longer.