Kaipara mayor pleads for more testing stations after locals face 100km round trip

Publish Date
Mon, 25 Jan 2021, 1:57PM
Kaipara residents are facing long trips across the region for a Covid-19 test. Photo / File
Kaipara residents are facing long trips across the region for a Covid-19 test. Photo / File

Kaipara mayor pleads for more testing stations after locals face 100km round trip

Publish Date
Mon, 25 Jan 2021, 1:57PM

Some residents in rural Kaipara are today facing a 100km round trip to get a Covid-19 test.

Matakohe, a small settlement on SH12 is virtually a ghost town after a Northland woman infected with Covid spent four hours at three popular tourist attractions on January 18, including at the Kauri Museum.

All venues in the township are closed today as staff and locals follow government advice to get a test and self-isolate.

District mayor Dr Jason Smith, who lives in Matakohe, said anyone from the township needing a test faced an unreasonable level of travel by road.

The closest testing station is at Mangawhai on Northland's east coast, which would require people making a 100km round trip and spending at least 11/2 hours in a vehicle.

"From Matakohe to Mangawhai is nearly 50km which is quite a hike for people to have to travel," said Smith.
"From my perspective, we may require more testing stations just for peace of mind for the people and for the system."

He is calling on health officials to provide more pop-up testing stations across the region to make it easier for people needing a nasal swab to access the centres without having to make the huge road trip.

"I would want it at Maungaturoto which is a larger town roughly midway from Matakohe and Mangawhai," he said.

There were also two businesses - the second hand shop and the Four Square - in the neighbouring larger township which had been identified by the Ministry of Health as locations of interest in this latest community case.

Smith said the health scare had put the district on edge, and had all but shut down some small communities.

"I live in Matakohe. Matakohe's cafe, art gallery and museum are all shut today so Matakohe is technically closed as a destination.

"There is an impact in those communities."
He said townsfolk connected with the businesses were working through the ramifications of self-isolation, testing and deep cleaning.

"There is an impact in those communities but people are being very mindful of not being complacent because the great summer that everyone's had quickly comes to a halt at this moment.

"We all want to make sure that nothing further comes from all of this."

In consultation with the Kaipara District Council staff Smith would be following up with local politicians today to get additional testing stations closer to outlying settlements.

There was also a need to be mindful of the additional challenges the Northland region faced when it came to the health of kuia and kaumatua who were vulnerable in this situation, he said.

Long waits for Covid-19 tests

There are traffic jams at busy Covid testing stations as anxious people queue up for a coronavirus swab after the community case in Northland.'

At one testing station, at Kamo, a young couple walked for over an hour to get tested as they had no other means of transport to get a swab.

Queues at the station snake down the road and security was called in to assist with the situation.

Maritime Union of New Zealand Northland representative Rex Pearce said he had just been to the refinery testing station in Ruakaka and estimated the wait to get tested could be as long as two and a half hours. He feared this may impact the ability of border workers to get tested.

One person queuing for a test at Whang─ürei's Pohe Island station told the Herald it was a "shambles".

"Very few staff. Ridiculous wait times. People are leaving," the man said.

"We will be here all day," he said.