Police turn away people crowding Auckland beach

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 May 2020, 12:29PM

Police turn away people crowding Auckland beach

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 May 2020, 12:29PM

Police have been turning people away from a small beach community as hordes of Aucklanders seek to make the most of the first weekend at alert level 3.

Traffic began to build approaching summer levels at Muriwai Beach yesterday, with a fine weather forecast and excellent surfing on offer.

Under alert level 3 the rules on travel have been slightly relaxed, allowing people to travel "locally" to areas for recreation, including beaches.

Swimming and surfing have also been allowed, although for experienced practitioners only.

But due to some of the car parks remaining closed cars were lined up across footpaths leading to the seaside.

Muriwai resident Richard Pamatatau said it was "incredibly busy" yesterday.

Only the smaller of two main car parks appeared to be open, with the number of people coming proving "much greater than the capacity of the carpark".

The beach area had been busy since the start of alert level 3 with surfers gliding into the water at first light on Tuesday but yesterday was "just a little bit crazy".

"Maybe people need to get out and let some steam off and part of that is going to the beach. There are a lot of people surfing."

Although it was great to see people enjoying a beautiful weekend, he was "perplexed" so many people were venturing out of their bubbles "when level 3 is meant to be not much different from level 4".

By yesterday afternoon police stepped in to control the crowds, setting up a police checkpoint in Waimauku about 20 minutes drive from the beach, to make sure people travelling towards the coast were safe and adhering to Alert Level 3 restrictions.

Waitematā District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said police put the checkpoint in place after concerns about overcrowding on the road into Muriwai, due to a number of local parking areas being closed

"This resulted in difficulties with people being able to maintain physical distancing from one another, so police acted to reduce the flow of people into the area to ensure safety, and remind those who may have been travelling unnecessarily that restrictions are still in place at alert level 3.

"The majority of those spoken to today were compliant and understanding.

"Police remind people that now is not the time to become complacent, the rules still apply and people must adhere to them for the safety of everyone."

Like at alert level 4 people should stay at home as much as possible except for exercise, going to work or school, or visiting local services like the doctor, pharmacy or supermarket, Hassan said.

"When it comes to outdoor exercise and recreation we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk injury or require search and rescue services.

"Checkpoints like the one deployed today are one of a number of ways police are working with New Zealanders to keep everyone safe and protected during the Covid-19 pandemic."

Auckland Council Rodney Local Board chairman Phelan Pirrie said parking on footpaths was known to happen in the area during the peak summer season.

"I don't think people are really that upset. We are used to this. This stuff happens all the time.

"Muriwai is the second busiest beach in Auckland after Long Bay. Over a million people come out here every year."

He said if people kept parking on footpaths he had no doubt Auckland Transport would come out and fine people.

Some people were probably finding the contrast between people out and about since the alert level change a bit of a shock, he said.

"It was absolutely stunning this morning. It was beautiful and the surf was mint.

"I fully understand why there are people out here."

The fact it was also the weekend would have drawn people to the beach but with rain on the way, he believed the problem would ease well before Monday.