Aucklanders make break for Northland ahead of Christmas, but iwi worried COVID peak yet to arrive

Police and iwi at the checkpoint into Northland are busy on Friday night, with Aucklanders making a break for the Christmas holidays.

Struggling businesses are welcoming the influx of visitors, but local iwi worry the COVID peak is yet to come.

A packed boot and a COVID pass in hand, these travellers are just moments away from crossing the checkpoint for a well-deserved holiday in Northland. They're not the only ones making the dash this weekend.

"It's been getting busier each day. It's been fairly full on today. Traffic's still moving through pretty quickly which is good," says Inspector Wayne Ewers.

Traffic on the roads is a welcome sign for businesses in the region who have been hit hard by the Delta outbreak. 

"There are businesses who need the next few weeks to go well in order to stay around, in order to keep their employees on the books and in order to keep communities thriving," says Tania Burt, Northland Inc Destination general manager. 

With school finished and many Aucklanders now on Christmas leave, local operators are hoping for a much-needed cash injection. 

"We have quiet winters up here but it has been a really long quiet winter this time," says Sarah Greener, who runs The Rock Adventure Cruise in Paihia. 

While her bookings are down on the usual summer season, there is still plenty to be happy about.

"I have heard the fishing's pretty good at the moment so hopefully people can get up and get a nice feed as well and if you're into just looking at fish there's plenty of that going on out there too."

The influx of visitors comes with the very real risk of COVID spreading - just 82 percent are double-vaxed - the lowest in the country.

And local iwi Ngatiwai wants everyone to be careful and considerate.

"COVID-19 is on our front doorstep," says chief executive Huhana Lyndon. "Well it's nearly in the kitchen now whanau. We've had over 90 cases now in the region. It is not happening over there it is actually right here now Tai Tokerau."

A warning to stay on guard this Christmas.