'Certainly not appropriate': Police Minister Stuart Nash addresses lockdown community roadblocks

Police Minister Stuart Nash has hit out at "ratbags and renegades" who have set up private roadblocks during New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown.

During the Epidemic Response Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nash was asked about community roadblocks by National MP Gerry Brownlee and whether they were appropriate.

Brownlee said he'd been alerted to an incident where a 70-year-old man couldn't get past a roadblock to buy some milk and instead, was told by a gang member to go home.

"That is certainly not appropriate I would say but I don't know the circumstances," Nash said.

His comments come after Northland MP Matt King urged the Government to ban community roadblocks during the COVID-19 crisis. Last week, a Kaikohe couple was forced to call the police for help after being "harassed and illegally detained" by volunteers at a Te Tai Tokerau Border Control roadblock.

'Certainly not appropriate': Police Minister Stuart Nash addresses lockdown community roadblocks
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"Where these checkpoints can operate with the blessing of the police, the local community, the local council, and key stakeholders, I'm quite comfortable for them to happen," Nash said. "Where, however, they are set up by ratbags and renegades without the support of the local community and police, then [the] police will take this very seriously.

"When people are trying to block main arterial routes, that's not on," he said.

He said the only organisation in New Zealand allowed to authorise roadblocks is the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

"Police cannot authorise roadblocks and, to my understanding to date, no roadblock has been authorised by NEMA."

Last week, King acknowledged the checkpoints were "well-intentioned", but said reports of negative experiences should see them outlawed in Northland and throughout New Zealand.

"I think the Government, Police Minister, and senior police need to shut them down [and] communicate to the people that are doing them that they're illegal and need to be stopped immediately."

The checkpoints, set up by former Māori Party MP Hone Harawira, have been in place since last month.

During Tuesday's committee meeting, National leader Simon Bridges claimed Nash was "just letting" the roadblocks happen but the minister disputed this.

"I know, talking to the police, that they are very keen to ensure that no-one is breaking the law, that communities are kept safe, and that people are held to account if they break the rules," Nash said.