Prime Minister, when you announced last week that the country would move into a period of unprecedented “self-isolation”, you made it clear that enforcement of these measures would be provided by police officers and the military, Hobson’s Pledge spokesman Don Brash wrote today.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, he wrote: “You specifically urged New Zealanders not to take matters into their own hands, by adopting vigilante measures”.
“Yet we know from a number of media reports that in at least two parts of the country - Northland and the Eastern Bay of Plenty - check-points have been set up by ordinary citizens with not the slightest legal authority to do so to prevent citizens travelling on public highways,” Dr Brash wrote.
“In both cases, these ordinary citizens have had some Maori ancestry, and have apparently claimed that this gave them the right to block public highways, and turn back other citizens,” he wrote.
“What is extremely alarming is that the Police appear not only to have taken no action to prevent this behaviour, they have explicitly endorsed it. When challenged by journalist Bob Edlin, Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha replied:
‘This is about community policing to be protective. These are unprecedented times and we are working with communities across the country to restrict the spread of the virus. We are working with iwi who are taking the lead to ensure rural communities that don’t have immediate access to support services are well protected…. Iwi are taking a strong leadership role and we want to model what it looks like when iwi, police, councils and other agencies work in partnership.’”
“Prime Minister, this is an extremely disturbing development: either private individuals are allowed, indeed encouraged, to take matters into their own hands or they are not. There simply must not be one law for those who have some Maori ancestry and a different law for everybody else,” he wrote.
“Can you assure the public that this kind of behaviour will be stopped, and will not be tolerated again?” Dr Brash wrote.