A month-long occupation of the Mt Messenger bypass site on State Highway 3 in Taranaki has come to an end after police remove protesters this afternoon, making two arrests.
The protesters were last week issued a trespass notice by Waka Kotahi and the Ngāti Tama iwi, which agreed to swap 20 hectares of its Treaty settlement land so the project could go ahead. Ngāti Tama also received a cash payout of about $7 million.
Inspector Phil Gillbanks, Relieving Area Commander, said officers had enforced a trespass notice on behalf of Waka Kotahi following engagement and attempts at mediation by police between the unlawful occupiers and Waka Kotahi over the last month.
"Unfortunately a small number of the occupiers present refused to leave the site as requested today, and were subsequently arrested by Police. Two people attempting to access the site at the road blocks have been arrested for obstruction," he said.
He added it had been necessary to close State Highway 3 for safety reasons while police entered and resolved the situation.
Earlier a protest leader, Marie Gibbs from Poutama Charitable Trust, said about 10 police officers had arrived at the site at 9.30am and gave protesters two hours to move.
She said Ngā Hapū o Poutama - not Ngāti Tama - were the legal occupants, although they have not been recognised by the court as mana whenua.
"And we also believe that NZTA have obtained this land from Ngāti Tama by fraud, and police have agreed to take a statement from us to that effect."
Gibbs said some protesters had left the camp this morning, but about a dozen would be standing their ground.
Police had blocked off the road to prevent more supporters arriving, she said.
"From our point of view, we're the legal occupants here. NZTA have removed the maunga without any consultation and in breach of agreements they would leave that maunga intact."
Protesters were determined to remain non-violent, even if the police moved to forcibly remove them, she said.