The government’s three-step relaxation of Alert level 3 restrictions was seen by many as a green light for day-trippers to return to Waiheke, but it has now confirmed travel to Waiheke remains off-limits for all except essential travel.

The local board was in a conference call when confirmation came in on Wednesday morning and chair Cath Handley said members greeted the news with excitement and relief.

“We are grateful to government for changing the regulations,” Handley told Gulf News. “It felt like we had been marooned without a lifeline and government has proved itself responsive, which we are really grateful for.”

The government’s easing of restrictions was greeted with initial confusion, with Fullers’ general enquiries saying they would be transporting day-trippers to the island. This message was then scotched by Fullers’ media team insisting they will continue to stick with the existing alert level 3 protocol, transporting only essential workers.

“For now, and until we receive further guidance from government, ferry travel remains available for essential travel only while government advice continues to be to stay close to home and keep it local,” said Fullers 360 CEO Mike Horne.

According to Auckland Council, local parks are now open, in addition to public toilets, playgrounds, skate parks, fitness equipment, outdoor showers and picnic tables. Barbecues and drinking fountains remain switched off.

These changes leapfrog Saturday’s submission by the local board calling for the creation of a controlled border around Waiheke, allowing it to operate at alert level 2. Handley said the proposal was a response to calls from business owners and island residents keen to find a solution suited to the island’s unique position.

The local board will now regroup to discuss the resolution in light of the government’s latest announcements.

“The decision was unanimous, but it was thought through prior to the prime minister announcing changes on Monday,” she said. “It was in the context of Auckland staying where it was. We need to regroup and think about it in the context of decisions that have now been made by government.” •Liza Hamilton

Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!

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