Northland alert level shock: Mayor, business association ‘gutted’ by move, but say it’s the right thing to do

Far North Mayor John Carter says tonight’s move to level 3 is no surprise to locals.

“The community are quite scared actually so the decision to put safety first, even though it will cause challenges for businesses in the interim, is the right way to go.”

The move was announced by Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins at a press conference late this afternoon in response to two new unlinked cases in Taipa.

Hipkins said there was a possibility of an undetected link in the chain of transmission. Most of the previous northern cases were around Omapere, and there was no contact between those cases and the new Taipa cases.

The northern part of Northland will move to level 3 from 11.59pm tonight until at least Monday night.

Carter admitted it was going to be tough for Far North residents and the support from the remainder of Northland would be key.

“Just be mindful of the fact this is a challenge for all of us. Be supportive, be kind, don’t be angry or upset and give support where you can,” he said.

“We have Covid fatigue which is going to make this difficult, but we will stand up and work together as a district and a region and get through this.”

He was hoping Monday’s review would bring progress on the health front.

He also believed the Far North would cope in terms of supply meeting demand on amenities in the communities.

“As far as I’m aware our food suppliers are confident that we will be able to cope – we will just have to manage and monitor it as we go.”

Carter urged Northlanders to stick with all the health measures – such as wearing masks, scanning QR codes, social distancing – to keep one another safe.

But most importantly people should get vaccinated, he said.

“Far North leaders, iwi, business leaders, sporting leaders, local Government are all saying please, please get vaccinated.”

Locals have been hearing the plea, as the last two to three days saw an “incredible” response to both vaccination and testing rates, Carter said.

“A lot of people are now changing their mind since there have been cases in the Far North and are getting vaccinated.”

He said Northlanders were realising it wasn’t just about their own personal safety but that of their whānau and community.

'Another hard announcement'

Kaitaia Business Association chairwoman Andrea Panther said tonight’s move to level 3 for the top of Northland was gutting, but the right thing to do.

“Our businesses have been struggling because of the lockdowns and this is just another hard announcement for us,” Panther said.

“However, because of our geography, everybody knows each other, and with the lack of locations of interest and there’s been a lot of fear and panic up here this week.

“People have been cancelling hairdresser and other appointments and lots of people know people who have said they’ve come into contact with the [two Far North] cases, so it’s probably a good call [to move the area to level 3]. It’s very disappointing, but it’s the right move.

“Just with these two cases our poor health system and hospital is under real pressure, so I’d hate to imagine what it would be like if we had many more cases. The queues at the testing stations have been down the road and there’s a lot of fear up here.”

Panther said if Far North residents wanted to prevent further lockdowns, they should get vaccinated.

Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said she supported the shift to level 3, but she felt for people and businesses who would be affected.

“I’m pleased to see they’ve put that border in across the Far North and not lifted the whole of the region [to level 3]. They’ve have been liaising closely with the Far North Mayor [John Carter] and iwi and health authorities, and I’m pretty impressed with that.

“It’s the right thing to do and I support the move, but I feel for the businesses and people of the Far North that are impacted by this move.”

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