Mana Movement leader and former Māori Party MP Hone Harawira claims he is planning to lockdown New Zealand's Far North in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Sunday, the political party shared a rallying call for the implementation of stringent measures to protect Far North residents, the statement appearing on both Harawira's personal Facebook and the Mana Movement's public page.
The post, which has amassed more than 1000 likes across both platforms since it was uploaded, claims backpackers and tourists are "rolling into Pak'nSave without protective face masks and without self-isolating for 14 days".
The Far North District, which spans from North Cape and Cape Reinga to the Bay of Islands and Hokianga, includes the towns of Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Moerewa, Paihia and Russell.
According to the 2018 Census, more than 40 percent of the district's population is Māori. Māori have frequently been identified as an at-risk demographic due to common, underlying health issues which are believed to cause complications with COVID-19, such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
"Nothing is being done to stop them coming into our world without protection, so we will be," the post declares.
- "We are planning to lockdown the Far North
- We will contact the police and local authorities to ensure this is managed properly
- We will refer locals returning home to medical authorities for advice and isolation
- We will allow the flow of food and health items
- We will turn all tourists away
- If you're not from here, turn back, or if you're already here we'll send you back to Auckland and they can organise your self-isolation."
The post also called on iwi leaders and Far North residents for their support.
"The Government won't do it, so we will," Harawira wrote.
Although the move has received a largely positive response, some have questioned its forceful wording. Team leader for Northland District Health Board's public health unit, Steve Kenny, called the party's declaration "mean-spirited".
"We still need a place for them to go, that way the Govt agencies and their consulates can cater for their needs," Kenny wrote. "We still need to exercise kindness and manaakitanga and hope that they are doing the same for our people trapped in their countries. Let's not forget rangatiratanga and manaakitanga to these manuhiri.
"I know it's serious but they are trapped here... this is a time to show kindness to everyone, not a time to be nasty and target those who are also vulnerable. Fear doesn't give us an excuse to be mean spirited, our hearts are bigger than that."
The Mana Movement, formerly known as the Mana Party, was formed in April 2011 following Harawira's resignation from the Māori Party. The party failed to gain any seats during the 2017 general election.
New Zealand's COVID-19 case total rose to 66 over the weekend, the current status of the outbreak sitting at alert level two.
Although the Ministry of Education has not suggested a lockdown of all schools is imminent, several schools have closed following the positive diagnosis of a student, staff member of parent.
A number of businesses, venues and services have shut down amid the outbreak as a precautionary measure, including Auckland Council libraries, pools and leisure centres. Recent travel restrictions have prohibited visitors and tourists from entering the country and public indoor gatherings of more than 100 people have been discouraged.
Harawira was approached by Newshub for comment.