Wānaka couple: New Zealanders fear more will break COVID rules if pair get off lightly

Kiwis fear more people will stop abiding by COVID restrictions if the Wānaka couple who flouted alert level 4 lockdown rules gets off lightly.

The infamous pair, a 35-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman, could face charges after using their essential worker exemption to get through Auckland's southern boundary to Hamilton, where they boarded a commercial flight to Queenstown.

Once there they rented a vehicle and drove to Wānaka where the man's family has a holiday home. Police were alerted after the couple were dobbed in online via the COVID-19 compliance reporting tool.

They face up to six months in prison or a $4000 fine if found guilty of breaching the lockdown rules.

Their actions have caused widespread anger among the public, with Aucklanders still struggling under level 4 for at least another week.

"Why should I bother abiding by restrictions when a couple can just abuse their essential work permits and go on a little holiday while getting a mere slap on the wrist (which, undoubtedly will be the case)," one person said, kicking off a Reddit thread.

"I've said this on other threads; if this couple is not fined tens of thousands of dollars, if they're not imprisoned for six months, if they're not given community service AND this doesn't go on their criminal record, I am done. I refuse to follow restrictions when others can get away with it and make a total mockery."

Others were concerned this is exactly what would happen if the couple weren't convicted and named.

"If these two are shown to get off without so much as a consequence that actually impacts them then Jacinda can kiss goodbye people's goodwill in maintaining lockdown," another posted to Reddit.

"If it's ok for... and... to go off to Wanaka then why should everyone else stay locked down like good little Kiwis? I can see people saying f it and doing more of what suits them and less of what's good for the team of 5 million."

But others urged the original poster not to sink to the level of the lockdown flouters.

"Please do not follow their example. It's totally so shit what they did, and lockdown is crap, but most of us realise it is so important. So please don't stoop to their level," one person commented.

"It's not fair and it's not right. But don't stoop to their level man. Take the higher road, be the better person. Be the best you," another added.

The couple has sought name suppression for themselves, and for the man's mother - a high profile public official in Auckland. Rachael Reed QC says her clients will not be making any comment.

Name suppression for the pair is due to lapse at 7pm on Tuesday, however Reed is applying to the High Court to get name suppression continued.