Muddy Waters

8 April 2020

Police are unwilling to say whether they will be ramping up COVID-19 checkpoints to prevent an influx of out-of-town visitors into Rotorua during the Easter weekend break.

The Newshub web site has reported that the Civil Defence organisation on the Coromandel was looking to support the efforts of police by installing checkpoints at key points to prevent an influx into the popular holiday hot spot over Easter.

The special checkpoint concept arose following a raft of complaints from Coromandel residents about non-residents turning up at their baches and holiday homes during the lockdown.  They feared the likelihood this would worsen over Easter.

Like the Coromandel, Rotorua also has a large number of baches and homes owned by people who live in other regions.  Many are in attractive areas near the lakes.

The city is in a volcanic caldera, with three or four main highway entrances: From Hamilton over the Mamaku Range; Tauranga via Ngongotaha; Tauranga via Paengaroa; Eastern Bay of Plenty via the Rotoma route; and, the south (through Waipa and the Hemo Gorge).

Not counting direct access to Lake Rotorua, once visitors are in Rotorua, getting out to the leading lakes would be easier for authorities to monitor.  The primary access is off Te Ngae Road and up Tarawera Road to access the Blue Lake, Lake Okareka and Lake Tarawera. 

Travellers coming from the Eastern Bay of Plenty will have access straight from the climb over the Rotoma Range to Lake Rotoma, where there are some baches and holiday home, and (pass Lake Rotoehu) into the small settlement at LakeRotoiti.  (See Rotorua Lakes Council map)

A Police media spokesperson told The Mud that people had were told to stay at home and that there would be checkpoints in place to ensure only those able to travel could during Easter.  It was not willing to disclose the location of checkpoints in Rotorua during the Easter weekend.

The Rotorua Lakes Council, which administers Rotorua Civil Defence, told The Mud it would not be providing any services to help ensure out of town visitors come to the city during the Easter break during the COVID-19 lockdown.

As well, the proliferation of Airbnb accommodation and holiday homes to rent adds to the pressure.  The Airbnb booking site shows 15 pages of the potential holiday accommodation throughout the Rotorua area. 

An Official Information Act request to the Rotorua Lakes Council last year noted that residents made $3.8 million using Airbnb to rent out their properties in the 11 months to May 2019.

“Rotorua is a popular tourist destination, and our visitors have always enjoyed manaakitanga here.  Our people are our city’s ambassadors, and we are mindful of deterring accommodation options where visitors can immerse themselves in our communities while also ensuring the playing field for our accommodation sector is fair,” the council said in response.

Police mum on plans to bar COVID-19 Easter Weekend visitors

Map source: Rotorua Lakes Council

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