Northland checkpoint coordinator 'gutted' at vetting denial

Helen Castles
Source: 1News

Iwi volunteers who pushed for two Northland police checkpoints have been turned away at the site because of a last-minute decision by police to have them vetted.

Northland border checkpoint.

For two months, The Tai Tokerau Border Control (TBC) team has been planning the checkpoint operation with Northland police for when the Auckland border lifted.

While police are in charge, iwi had planned to support the officers as they pulled vehicles over to check for their vaccination status or whether they were negative for Covid-19.

But at 11pm on Tuesday, iwi were told volunteers needed to be police vetted.

Border Control coordinator Reuben Taipari

The TBC scrambled to get as many volunteers through the system in time for when the border opened at 11.59pm on Tuesday.

But, many weren’t processed in time and were turned away at the scene, including those who travelled as far away as Kaitaia and Waitangi.

On Wednesday shortly before midday, Border Control coordinator Reuben Taipari learned he failed the vetting process despite not having any criminal convictions.

Taipari, a well know Māori rights campaigner from Kaitaia, has led and organised the TBC group at various checkpoints over the past 18 months.

He told 1News he was gutted and disappointed.

He said he was unsure why he failed the vetting process.

1News understands the decision was a direction from National Police headquarters in Wellington. Northland Police bosses have tried to have the vetting process for the volunteers scrapped.

Taipari said it was a kick in the guts after weeks of planning and meetings with police over the checkpoint operations.

Northland District Police Commander Superintendent Tony Hill said vetting was part of the process to man the checkpoints in order to keep everyone safe.

Those turned away from the front line could rejoin once they had been vetted, Hill said, although he appreciated "it has been frustrating for them".

Police from as far afield as Dunedin will man the checkpoints with the vetted border control volunteers.

The two checkpoints, one south of Whangārei at Waipu and another at State Highway 12, will operate around the clock through the busy Christmas and New Year period.