ACT leader David Seymour has doubled down on his comments that those manning Northland’s iwi-led checkpoints are “thugs”, prompting the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick to accuse him of dog-whistling.
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control in Northland are gearing up to assist police with the Auckland checkpoint once the border opens on December 15.
At the checkpoints, police would stop vehicles and Te Tai Tokerau Border Control would assist to check vaccine passes or proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
It comes amid lagging Covid-19 vaccination coverage in Northland — 80 per cent of the eligible population in the district is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates of all DHBs in the country.
Since Tuesday, Seymour had criticised Te Tai Tokerau Border Control for stopping New Zealanders “going about their legitimate business".
"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,” he said earlier this week.
Seymour, who appeared on Breakfast on Friday morning, said the border control group only represented a “minority” of iwi.
“First of all, we ask, what is the public health advice? Ashley Bloomfield says the borders has now fulfilled its duties,” Seymour said.
His comments come after the Director-General of Health’s affidavit to the Waitangi Tribunal said Auckland's borders should have been removed when the traffic light system was introduced.
“I am listening to New Zealanders who want to be able to move freely about their country and follow the law based on public health advice, rather than some thug who thinks it’s their job to make the law in this country,” Seymour said.
It prompted Swarbrick, who appeared on Breakfast alongside Seymour, to say: “Careful with the dog whistle David. If you keep using it like that, you might break it in due time.”
She said Seymour was being contradictory, given ACT was meant to be the party of personal responsibility.
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control was an example of a community taking matters into its own hands, rather than relying on big government to do it for them, Swarbrick said.
Seymour replied that the border control group shouldn’t be stopping other Kiwis from going about their travels.
“It’s like regional warlords deciding where you can go. That’s totally outrageous.”
Swarbrick said, contrary to how Seymour was describing things, that the Government had introduced a new law under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act to allow authorised iwi representatives or community patrollers to set up border checkpoints with Bloomfield’s permission.
The Government had also moved the Covid-19 response to a phase of personal responsibility, rather than a collective one like the Greens had wanted, she said.
Swarbrick said that meant people should respect the wishes of iwi and hapu when making choices about where to travel during the summer, in case they transmit the virus.
“Chlöe, Chlöe, Chlöe, you can’t advocate for personal responsibility, you’re taking our space! That’s not fair,” Seymour replied while chuckling.
“I’m just saying that David, in advocating personal responsibility, [there's] a responsibility to listen to the communities that one may be entering into,” Swarbrick said.