Official’s son caught breaching lockdown rules granted suppression

The names of the high-ranking public official’s son and his partner who allegedly breached Covid-19 lockdown rules by flying to a Wānaka holiday home will remain secret, for now.

The 35-year-old man and the 26-year-old woman crossed the Auckland alert level 4 border using essential worker exemptions on Thursday, police said.

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They then drove to Hamilton Airport where they caught a commercial flight to Queenstown, via Wellington, rented a vehicle and drove to a holiday home in Wānaka.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, police said they were tipped off about the alleged breach by a member of the public who made a report using the online Covid-19 “compliance” tool.

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Officers found the pair in Wānaka on Saturday afternoon.

They have since returned to Auckland. It’s unclear how.

One of the man’s parents is a high-ranking public official.

The man referred questions to his lawyer, Auckland barrister Rachael Reed QC, when contacted by Stuff on Monday morning.

Reed said her client had no comment to make in relation to the allegations.

During an urgent hearing on Monday evening, a district court judge granted interim suppression of the couple’s names, and the name and occupation of the public official.

The order was put in place to allow Reed to make an application to the High Court for suppression orders of a longer duration.

Police visited the Wānaka holiday home several times at the weekend, a neighbour said.

A part-owner of the property, which is worth more than $1 million, told Stuff he was unaware of the suspected breach.

“Jeepers mate, you’ve knocked my socks off,” the man said after being told of the allegations.

He said he was “absolutely appalled”, calling the couple’s actions “self-entitled behaviour”.

A nearby resident said they were “disgusted” to learn what had happened.

It was a quiet neighbourhood and the houses were close together. He was concerned the couple had been out and about in Wānaka.

“Everyone’s playing by the rules and there’s a possibility the South Island could have gone to level 1, but with something like this you think well…”

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult said he wanted a judge to “throw the book” at the couple, and that he couldn’t believe people could be that stupid.

“They risked the health and wellbeing of the whole country.”

Boult said public health officials had told him the risk was low that the couple had exposed Wānaka residents to Covid-19.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern didn’t have more detail about the incident, saying she preferred to leave it to the police to respond.

A man and his partner allegedly breached lockdown rules when they left Auckland and flew to Wānaka.

Iain McGregor/Stuff

A man and his partner allegedly breached lockdown rules when they left Auckland and flew to Wānaka.

Generally, she said everyone needed to play their part to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“The rules are not there to be gamed,” Ardern said.

“Aucklanders would take a very dim view of other Aucklanders who aren’t doing their bit, because they have for a long time and very diligently.”

Police said they would prosecute the man and his partner for breaching a government Covid-19 health order when they failed to return to their place of residence within the alert level 4 area after leaving for approved essential personal movement.

They would be summonsed to appear in court this week, police said.

Boult said it was not the first instance of a person flouting rules in the region, with a 41-year-old businessman also in trouble for flying from Auckland to Queenstown on September 1 without an exemption.

“People just need to think beyond themselves before they make these decisions.”

On Monday police said they had caught a few people near Auckland checkpoints who had flouted alert level 4 rules.

On Sunday two men, aged 36 and 52, tried to drive across the city’s southern border.

The men produced travel exemptions, but were questioned further when officers smelt cannabis coming from their vehicle.

They were both in possession of more than 2 kilograms of the drug. Neither was driving south for essential purposes, police said.

The pair were charged with possession of cannabis for supply and failing to comply with the Covid-19 health order.

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