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Keep out of the backcountry.

That is the message from both the Department of Conservation (Doc) and police during Covid-19 Alert Level 4.

Police this week charged seven men who were found jet-boating on the Makarora River last Friday.

Notices have been put on vehicles in remote areas of the wider Wanaka region, to deter people from tramping or hunting during lockdown.

The jet-boaters aged between 22 and 30 due to appear in the Queenstown District Court on September 13, facing one charge each of failing to comply with the Covid-19 order restricting movement during lockdown.

Police declined to comment further now the matter was before the court.

Doc Central Otago operations manager Nikki Holmes said the rules were clear.

“At Alert Level 4, people should only be exercising close to home. Activities which could require Search and Rescue, such as tramping, are not appropriate.

“All Doc facilities are closed, and Doc staff are in regular contact with the New Zealand police who are responding to any issues of lockdown breaches.

“Doc encourages everyone to refamiliarise themselves with what the alert levels mean for recreation on the Covid-19 website, and we’re also keeping the Doc website up to date through alert level changes,” Mrs Holmes said.

The nation is waiting to hear from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern whether the South Island can move to Level 3 at the weekend.

Even at Alert Level 3, when there is a high risk of Covid-19 within the community and the disease is not contained, all Doc huts, campsites, lodges and toilets would remain closed.

Those with Doc bookings should wait for Doc to contact them by email with details on how to receive a refund.

During Level 3, hunting on public conservation land was allowed, but only if it was close to home and did not involve hunting in a motorised vehicle.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, Otago Lakes Central Area prevention manager, confirmed this week Wanaka police had been putting notices on some vehicles in remote areas of the wider Wanaka region, to deter people from tramping or hunting during lockdown.

People had been travelling to areas outside their neighbourhood for exercise or recreation, Snr Sgt Fookes said.

It was a repeat of behaviour seen during last year’s Level 4 restrictions.

The potential for injury inherent in these activities would expose emergency services to infection risk, he said.