22 Jul 2012

Protesters barrack National Party conference over cuts

10:56 am on 22 July 2012

Protesters rallying against education cuts on Saturday got close to the National Party conference in Auckland, but failed to get past the police line.

About 300 people took part in the demonstration which began at Britomart and ended at the doors of the conference at the SkyCity convention centre.

Protesters from unions and education groups took part in the march.

Protesters from unions and education groups took part in the march. Photo: RNZ

The protesters included many from unions and education groups. Organisers said the turnout from so many different groups shows there's concern across the board about the Government's education policies.

The protesters carried a coffin with them on the route to symbolise what they said was the death of education.

Vice president of primary school teacher union NZEI, Frances Guy, says politicians need to listen to school staff.

"Teachers and the education system know what makes a difference and it's about the resources for the good programmes that we do have," she said.

Protestors initially marched up Queen Street before moving onto Federal Street, and were about 30 metres away from the front doors of the SkyCity convention centre where the National Party is holding its conference.

After standing face to face with a line of police officers for about 20 minutes, they moved on.

Key unmoved by protests

Earlier, in his opening address, Mr Key said one of the great things about New Zealand's democracy is the right to protest and another is the right of the democratically-elected Government to get on with the job it has won a mandate for.

"So, let me assure you and everyone else watching, that that's exactly what we'll be doing."

Earlier, Mr Key said the party was in good heart and united, despite the Government facing a number of difficult issues this year.

He said things always get more difficult in the second term of office and he is confident the Government has the support of the party.

Bennett's warning

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is promising to get tougher with beneficiaries who face outstanding arrest warrants.

Ms Bennett told the conference that under the current law those beneficiaries do not face any penalty.

"So you can be on the run from the police and still receive welfare ... well that's gonna change."

Ms Bennett says it will form part of the Government's second round of welfare changes.

She says these will also include placing more obligations on beneficiaries.