COVID-19: Smooth start to NZ's first day of alert level split with checkpoint compliance and flowing traffic - Andrew Coster

It has been a smooth start to New Zealand's first day under an alert level split, with all regions south of Auckland rejoicing the return of takeaways at alert level 3, while the upper North Island remains in lockdown. 

Traffic is flowing smoothly through the series of checkpoints stationed along Auckland's southern border, with no issues of non-compliance as of yet, says Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

Movement between Auckland and the Waikato is highly restricted due to the alert level divide, with police officers guarding the regional boundary. All motorists intending to move between zones will be subject to questioning to ensure they are not travelling for non-essential purposes.

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Commissioner Coster said he is "very pleased" at the level of compliance, with no issues to report from the checkpoints so far.

Around 200 officers have been deployed to the borders to ensure motorists are only undertaking interregional travel for permitted reasons, which include healthcare, shared childcare arrangements, and caring for pets or animals. 

He said there is some flexibility for those residing along the Auckland-Waikato divide, with officers applying a "common sense approach" to ensure locals can access essential services with ease.

Inspector Kay Lane echoed Coster's comments, telling Newshub it has been "smooth sailing" across the checkpoints. She says less than 30 people have been turned around for not having the correct documentation - "or just thinking they can try their luck".

And there is also good news on the vaccination front. Previously, only around 40 percent of frontline staff had received one dose of the vaccine - but that number has now risen by about 20 percent. 

"We've had 60 percent of our frontline officers receiving at least one dose… that's stepped up by 20 percent," Coster told The AM Show.

"And then 40 percent have received two doses. So that's tracking up quite quickly every day.

"We've had a real step up in the past week, so I'm really pleased with how that's going."

Where the boundary is currently situated.
Where the boundary is currently situated. Photo credit: PMO

Checkpoints were established along the outskirts of southern Auckland on Tuesday afternoon as the rest of the country prepared to shift to alert level 3, which came into force at 11:59pm.

Southern checkpoints are currently operating in five locations - for southbound traffic along State Highway 1 and the Mercer off-ramp; for northbound traffic travelling along State Highway 1 and Oram Road; Mangatawhiri Rd/State Highway 2; East Coast Rd/Waharau Regional Park; and State Highway 22/Churchill Rd and Logan Rd in Pukekawa.

At the request of the community, Port Waikato has been included within the Auckland border to ensure residents are not cut off from essential services close to their homes.

There are currently no checkpoints along Auckland's northern boundary as Northland also remains under alert level 4 restrictions. If wastewater samples show no traces of COVID-19, it's expected the region will shift to level 3 this Thursday.

However, there are three checkpoints in operation at Northland's southern entry points. These are located at the State Highway 1 intersection with State Highway 12; Mountain Rd in Kaiwaka; and Cove Rd by Bream Tail Rd.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo credit: Getty Images

In  a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Coster reiterated that anyone attempting to travel across regional boundaries separating alert level 4 and alert level 3 areas should expect to be stopped and asked for proof of essential travel.

"We are anticipating that there may be delays during peak times at these boundary checkpoints, and we are asking our community to be prepared for this and to be patient."

Should Northland shift to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Thursday, as signalled by the Government, officers are ready to deploy checkpoints to the region's southern boundary with Auckland at the following locations:

  • SH1 / Mangawhai Rd/Twin Coast Discovery Highway
  • Mangawhai Rd/Twin Coast Discovery Highway / north of Coal Hill Rd
  • Black Swamp, west of Rako Rd
  • Mangawhai Rd/Twin Coast Discovery Highway and Cames Rd
  • Mangawhai Rd/Twin Coast Discovery Highway and Ryan Rd.