17 Apr 2023

Protesters blocking roads could face 14 years jail, police warn

6:35 pm on 17 April 2023
Police removing protesters who had glued themselves to the road surface in the southbound lane of SH1 just before Wellington's Terrace Tunnel.

Police removing protesters who had glued themselves to the road surface. Photo: RNZ/ Bill Hickman

Disruptive protests blocking traffic are dangerous for drivers and protesters and anyone taking part in the future could face up to 14 years in jail, police say.

Four women, aged 19 to 64, have been arrested and charged with endangering transport after blocking part of a busy Wellington highway during the peak Monday morning commute, and were due to appear in Wellington District Court later on Monday.

The protesters, from the Restore Passenger Rail group, said there would be more protests until the government committed to restoring a nation-wide passenger rail network.

It was the latest of a series of similar protests blocking or disrupting SH1 in Wellington, going back to October last year.

But Police said while they recognised the right to peaceful protest, the public also had the right to be able to go about their business.

The protesters lined up just before 8am across the busy southbound lane of SH1 feeding into Wellington central, near the entrance to the Terrace Tunnel, bringing vehicles to a halt. The small group held banners and some glued themselves to the road surface, but police said they had been removed by 9am, with four arrested.

Some commuters appeared angry at the blockage, and construction workers caught up in the delays confronted the protesters.

Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said those taking part "run a real risk of being seriously injured" and "pose a serious threat to public safety, as traffic is forced to take evasive action to avoid collision and emergency services may be prohibited from attending emergencies".

Parnell said any protesters blocking traffic in the future should expect to be arrested and charged with endangering transport, which under Section 270 of the Crimes Act 1961 could land them a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.

"We urge protesters to consider their safety and the safety of others when planning their peaceful protest," Parnell said.

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