New research backs iwi-led checkpoints during lockdown

August 25, 2021

New research backs iwi-led checkpoints during lockdown

Dr Antje Deckert has studied the impact of lockdown on community policing. Photo: supplied

New research from Auckland University of Technology supports the use of community checkpoints implemented by Māori during lockdown.

Last year during Alert Level 4, several iwi set up community checkpoints at the borders of their territories to protect predominantly Māori communities from the spread of COVID-19 by non-essential travellers.

AUT senior lecturer and criminologist Dr Antje Deckert has studied the impact of lockdown, when neighbourhood watches are stood down, on community policing.

The research, part of an international Care and Responsibility Under Lockdown study, backs the use of iwi checkpoints, finding they demonstrate both effective policing of lockdown measures and public health education.

She said policing in Aotearoa New Zealand was traditionally plural in nature, being delivered not only by the Government, but above, beyond and below government.

“Iwis’ willingness to work alongside New Zealand police and their ability to build meaningful relationships with locals contributed to real and long-term community building.”

Facilitating more opportunities for this kind of “togetherness” creates safer and healthier communities, says Dr Deckert.

The legitimacy of the checkpoints have been questioned by New Zealand Police and media but  Māori sovereignty rights must be respected when policing public-health intervention measures, she says.

“There is much room for New Zealand police to not only acknowledge Māori policing next-to government but to establish meaningful partnerships with iwi that can be considered by-government policing under iwi authority.”

Dr Deckert says it is important indigenous voices are centralised in collective responses to the pandemic.

“As a public-health intervention, community checkpoints are based on the Māori values of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga, i.e., taking care of others, guardianship, and protection.

“Many iwi deemed checkpoints necessary, remembering the lost lives of the 1918 influenza pandemic during which Māori died at eight times the rate of Pākehā.”

Both the Government and police failed to acknowledge that the disproportionally threatening situation required that iwi emphasise and articulate their tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) with regards to protecting Māori communities, says Dr Deckert.

“These disparities should inspire the Government to acknowledge iwi as treaty partners and re-think who should be responsible for the ‘public-health policing’ in the diverse communities of Aotearoa.”

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