Joe Webber and his young family are based in Maketu, a small town just south of Mt Maunganui. While Webber usually spends most of his spare time hunting or fishing, the lockdown has put a halt to that and instead he is giving his time to man the Maketu check points.
“Our community saw what other small towns were doing around the country and some of the leaders decided to get a checkpoint started for Maketu,” explained Webber.
“We don’t have essential shops or doctors here in Maketu which is why residents need to leave, but that’s also why people from other communities don’t need to come in. Everyone who lives here has a resident’s sticker on their car so they get waved through, but if it’s tourists or freedom campers, we talk to them and make sure they know what the rules are at the moment.”
Webber said a daily roster is shared and volunteers are briefed each shift on key messages.
“We are able to let our community know what the changing levels mean for us and if there are confirmed cases in surrounding areas.”
Getting amongst the local community is something Webber is relishing.
“It’s mean getting involved in the community and meeting more of the locals. It’s a real shame that some people are out there saying we’re renegades and being really negative about these checkpoints because it is actually a positive community idea.”
And it's not just Webber. Former All Blacks Sevens teammate Issac Te Aute is staying with him and also volunteers at the checkpoint.
“Issac stays here a lot, usually during the weekends when we aren’t in lockdown, so it's been good to have him around, especially to train with.”
As the alert levels change, Webber said he will be volunteering as long as he is needed, but he can’t wait to get out and go fishing and hunting.
“We can’t go out fishing at level 3 but I have heard that there might be some possibilities around hunting if we are on foot, I’m itching to get the dogs out there!”
One hour down the road in Ruatoki, locals will have recognised Ngarohi McGarvey-Black volunteering at a Covid19 community testing station earlier this week.
McGarvey-Black returned to his hometown for lockdown and was called on by iwi leaders to help out at Wednesday’s community testing.
“My uncle is one of the iwi leaders and he asked me to help out, it was a no-brainer to be honest.
“People have been working so hard to protect our community during this lockdown, I wanted to be able to give those people a bit of a rest.”
McGarvey-Black said the testing was set up at their local Marae, with the drive through stations manned by doctors conducting the tests. Despite only being a small community, McGarvey-Black said it was a good turnout.
“It’s been good being back home, the community have really come together. The iwi are providing food packages for people who need it, and before we went to level 4 some of us got together and chopped wood for the elders.”
McGarvey-Black said he doesn’t know when he’ll next be called upon but is looking forward to more opportunities to get involved and help out.