Tuesday 14 December 2021
Rau Tipu Rau Ora, Tairāwhiti's Regional Leaders have written to the Director General of Health requesting a Public Health Order enabling checkpoints at the Tairāwhiti borders.
The letter requests police-led checkpoints be set up at strategic locations on State Highways 2 and 35, assisted by local iwi/hapū to check travellers’ proof of vaccination status or they have had a negative COVID-19 test within the 72-hour timeframe.
Rehette Stoltz, Gisborne Mayor and Rau Tipu Rau Ora co-chair says the request is based not only on the risk to individuals and communities, but also the fragility of the region’s health system.
“The Tairāwhiti health system will struggle to deal with a COVID outbreak amongst our current resident population. The addition of an estimated 10,000 returning whānau members and tourists, would place enormous pressure on an already exhausted health workforce,” says Mayor Stoltz.
It is estimated the Tairāwhiti population grows by 25-30% during the Christmas-New Year holiday period. Due to calls from the local community, Gisborne District Council recently announced that all camping would be restricted to those with vaccination passes.
Selwyn Parata, chairman of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou and co-chair of Rau Tipu Rau Ora says townships such as Ruatorea and Uawa, and suburbs in Gisborne still have high unvaccinated populations along with high numbers of pakeke (elders), under twelve-year-old’s and whānau with respiratory conditions. These conditions are underscored by the tyranny of distance, and health services and systems that have been neglected and under-resourced for years.
“We’re aware that Police checkpoints in partnership with local iwi and hapū will be established in Northland from December 15 when the borders around Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) are lifted,” said Mr Parata.
“We’re asking the same consideration be given to Tairāwhiti. We do not see this as setting a precedent for other parts of the country, because our circumstances in Tairāwhiti are unique and like Northland they require a bespoke response”.
The Rau Tipu Rau Ora governance group was established to oversee the production and implementation of the Tairāwhiti COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan, ‘Rau Tipu Rau Ora’. The forum comprises the Gisborne Mayor and the chairs of, local iwi, the Tairāwhiti DHB, Trust Tairāwhiti, Eastland Group Ltd and the Eastern Institute of Technology- Tairāwhiti.