If iwi volunteers helping police with Covid checkpoints were, "Rotarians or business leaders, or farmers helping out the police, they'd be lauded as upstanding citizens", says Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.
"Because it's Māori it's been characterised as lawlessness and I really reject that."
"It's about protecting families and loved ones up there," Davis said, when asked about the upcoming Northland checkpoint.
"There's a lot of people who are worried about what's going on up there and I'm really glad to see that iwi and police are cooperating, iwi are volunteering to support the police force."
The Tai Tokerau Border Control in Northland are gearing up to assist police with the Auckland checkpoint once the border opens on December 15.
"I think it's really good, I don't like to see it being characterised as thugs, working with police and people calling it nuts," Davis said.
"If it was a group of Rotarians or business leaders or farmers helping out the police they'd be lauded as upstanding citizens. Because it's Māori they're labelled thugs.
"I think that's wrong. Because it's Māori it's been characterised as lawlessness and I really reject that."
Asked if he thought it was racist – Davis said, "yeah, I do".
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill says police will set up and manage two short-term controlled checkpoints south of Whangārei.
"These checkpoints will be located on State Highway 1 at Uretiti and the second on State Highway 12 near Maungaturoto and will focus on northbound traffic only," he said.
There would be 74 police staff working on the border over a 24 hour roster.
Police would be stopping the vehicles, and Tai Tokerau Border Control would assist to check vaccine passes and or proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
"The checkpoints will not be stopping every car and will not hold up traffic unnecessarily or impede essential travel but travellers should be prepared and expect to be stopped," Hill said.
ACT's David Seymour said the "criticism is of people who are blocking the road and stopping New Zealanders going about their legitimate business".
"I don’t know why Kelvin Davis wants to bring race into it. My view is that if the Director-General of Health says that we need public health measures, then we should have public health measures.
"I think people who block roads are thugs. I haven’t actually called iwi thugs, I’ve called people who block roads and threaten to disrupt other people’s freedom thugs, and that’s what they are."
In response to this, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said she was proud to be called a thug - "if that’s what protecting your community looks like".
"I’m really proud of the iwi and recognise the mahi that they’re doing to protect not just Māori communities, but all of our communities, she said.
"Kia kaha whānau, keep doing your thugsta stuff."
Police announced earlier this month travellers into Northland would need to show proof of vaccination status or a negative Covid-19 test.
“Police will be very mindful of traffic flows, but the public can expect they may be stopped and spoken to by police to ensure they are abiding by the requirements of the Public Health Order," a spokesperson said.
Prior to the details around the checkpoint being released, new National leader Christopher Luxon said that, "fundamentally we're going to have a thin blue line that just got a lot thinner".
"There's got to be a better way than doing this."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said police had seen an extra 2500 officers added to their pool.
"What we facilitated was the ability of the police to always lead where they have checks, but to use additional if they so choose.
"Additional support from say the Defence Force, Pacific wardens or Māori wardens.
"That was an enabling function because in practice it was happening across the country, but this enables this to be done more formally but always with the presence of the police."