Reti claims thousands of Aucklanders may've fled to Northland in hours before lockdown

Helen Castles
Source: 1News

National’s health spokesperson Shane Reti says new information may show thousands of Aucklanders fled the city for Northland in the hours before New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown on August 17.

Northland Police check travel documentation on State Highway One at the Maungaturoto turnoff with north and southbound traffic in and out of Auckland.

According to the New Zealand Transport Authority, more than 4000 vehicles travelled through the Northern Gateway toll road at Puhoi in Auckland on August 17 from 6pm after it was announced the country would go into Level 4 lockdown at midnight.

Of those, 3316 vehicles were registered to an Auckland address.

The Northern Gateway toll road sits well within Auckland, with the Northland border approximately 34km further north on State Highway 1.

Reti - a Whangārei based list MP - says the drivers were likely carrying passengers and it could be as many as 10,000 Aucklanders crossing into Northland in the six-hour lead up to lockdown.

"I’m very unhappy with the infection risk these Aucklanders brought into Northland. It's not at all fair on the huge drain on Northland infrastructure, food, police and health," he said.

He’s also questioning if the potential exodus contributed to Northland staying in Level 4 with Auckland while the rest of the country went into Level 3.

"Is it because they knew how many Auckland people had crossed the boundary and were concerned?" he asked.

The amount of traffic on the Northern Gateway toll road increased by more than 200 per cent on the eve of lockdown compared to the same time a week earlier.

The number of cars using the toll on August 10 between 6pm and midnight was 1372, compared to 4326 on the eve of lockdown.

Police set up official checkpoints at the Northland border when the region dropped down to Level 3 on September 6, and in the 10 days that followed turned around close to 400 vehicles trying to get into Northland.

So far, Northland police have charged 17 people for breaching lockdown orders. They have also issued 41 warnings and handed out 369 infringement notices, mostly for failing to remain at their residence under the Health Act.