27 Oct 2022

Rail supporters stage protest on SH1 gantry in Wellington

12:13 pm on 27 October 2022
Restore Passenger Rail protest on gantry on SH1 near Johnsonville

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Three have been taken into custody after occupying a SH1 gantry after their latest demonstration which has disrupted traffic in the capital.

The Restore Passenger Rail campaigners have been staging a protest on top of the State Highway 1 gantry - the steel structure over the motorway - at Johnsonville this morning.

A firetruck with a crane was moved into a northbound lane of the motorway to help with the protesters' removal, an RNZ reporter at the scene said.

Restore Passenger Rail gantry protest in Wellington

The fire truck at the protest scene. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Charges were being considered, police said.

SH 1 near Johnsonville was now open and traffic was flowing, police said.

The protesters planned on speaking at Parliament's Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee via Zoom from the gantry.

However, the select comittee refused to hear from the activist group while they were breaking the law.

National MP Simeon Brown said he was not happy to listen to them and his fellow party member David Bennett said it would set a dangerous precedent.

The committee took a short break to discuss the matter before the group was informed of the decision.

The committee said it would hear from the group on 10 November.

Two protesters atop a gantry on SH1 at Johnsonville

The group wants a lot more passenger rail services. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Police and Fire and Emergency are at the protest scene and one police officer with abseiling gear went up to talk to a protester at the top of the gantry ladder.

The protesters displayed a sign that reads "Michael Wood we need to talk".

The transport minister said this afternoon he would not be meeting with the protest group until it stops making threats and severely disrupting the movement of thousands of people.

Wood said their actions were dangerous and counterproductive.

Two protesters atop a gantry on SH1 at Johnsonville

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The group is campaigning to restore the country's passenger rail services to the levels that existed in 2000.

An RNZ reporter at the scene believes it is the sixth time the group has staged a protest in Wellington in the last three weeks.

The group has released a statement criticising the select committee for being too slow on the issue of climate change and expanding the passenger railway network.

Spokesperson Rosemary Penwarden said the current NZ Rail plan was focused on freight and tourism.

"We need the minister of transport to commit to restoring an affordable nationwide passenger rail system."

She said Wood was yet to agree to meet the protesters despite their request.

"Transport emissions, the fastest growing contributor to New Zealand's emissions, can be solved. An affordable, accessible nationwide passenger rail system is part of the solution. The tracks are there.

"Restoring passenger rail will reduce emissions, reduce the cost of living for struggling New Zealanders, create jobs and bring people together. Restoring passenger rail is a no-brainer."

She said until this happened the group regarded motorways as "legitimate sites of peaceful non-violent civil resistance".

Restore Passenger Rail gantry protest in Wellington

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Two protesters atop a gantry on SH1 at Johnsonville

A truck moves underneath the gantry that is occupied by the protesters. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Two protesters atop a gantry on SH1 at Johnsonville

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

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