10 Feb 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside Parliament to 'move on'

11:04 am on 10 February 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside Parliament to 'move on'.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a Covid-19 update after visiting a vaccination centre in Albany, Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

She spoke after visiting a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Albany, Auckland.

At Parliament grounds, well over a dozen people have been arrested in efforts to remove anti-vaccine mandate protesters who have been occupying the precinct. More than 100 extra officers have been called in, including from other districts.

Ardern says it's ultimately an operational matter for police.

"Obviously every New Zealander has a right to protest, but there are also rules around what is able to happen on Parliament's forecourt and of course we would expect that people have behaviours that don't disrupt the ability of others to go on with their lives as well."

She says she thinks the majority of New Zealanders share a similar sentiment, to keep one another safe and live our lives and do as much as we can do to ensure we could continue to live our lives as we did before the pandemic.

"It is not unusual to have protest activity at Parliament, that is part of our democracy, but we do need to make sure that we keep that balance with people being able to live their lives - particularly people who live in the Wellington region or work in the Wellington region. So that is of course what the police are endeavouring to do.

"I'm not going to question those who have the expertise around how to manage situations like this.

"People have the right to protest but when that tips into affecting business, people's ability to move, the ability of kids to go to school or the ability of emergency services to move around obviously the police have to manage that."

She says she has seen a number of protests in her time in Parliament and this is certainly not the largest.

"All of us want to actually move on [and return to normal], we're putting ourselves in the best possible position to do that."

The Speaker has authorised the closure of the Parliamentary precinct if police deem it necessary to clear the lawn.

On her visit to the vaccination centre today, Ardern says it marks the beginning of booster week - a promotional campaign with more advertising, pop-up clinics and making it as easy as possible for more Kiwis to get their booster.

"I do just want to remind people again, the sooner you can get boosted, the better."

She says we are still at a point where our cases relative to other countries is low, but boosters will increase the protection and reduce the impact on health services.

She also wants to acknowledge that DHBs yesterday reached the 90 percent fully vaccinated milestone.

She says communities worried about being out and about, there are drive-through options close to many areas and people should check for those opportunities.

"Relative to other countries, New Zealand is performing really well ... this booster is making a difference globally to reducing hospitalisations."

She says one of the key determinants will be the number of people who get boosted, as the more people get boosted the fewer hospitalisations there are likely to be.

She says all the clinical decisions around the gap between doses are made by experts, so that everyone can have faith in the decisions that are being made.

"They're not political, they're made by experts who understand all of the decisions and all of the data."

She says the decisions on vaccination of children solely sits with parents and caregivers and whānau.

"Our job is to make sure they've got all the advice and support they need to make that decision."

"It was two shots for Delta, three for Omicron, the evidence all points in that direction so please just go out and do it again."

She says as Dr Bloomfield has noted, reporting seems to suggest that the third dose appears to have less likelihood of side effects than the first and second dose.

Ardern says he last two years have been an extraordinary period in new Zealand's history: "We've had to take decisions that no one would have expected but they've all been to keep one another safe and the success speaks for itself - we have some of the lowest hospitalisations and death rates in the OECD. But no one wants to have to continue to use restrictions longer than they're needed so if we're in the position to remove them, we will."

She says she has seen other issues with equal amounts of passion from other members of the public.

"This is not representative of where the vast majority of New Zealanders are, the vast majority are vaccinated ... you can see the results."

She says we know Omicron's infectious and we will see more cases. The new test to return to work scheme means that if we have a high case load, we may need to allow an exemption to some people who may otherwise be required to isolate.

"We will keep reinforcing the same message we always have, that vaccinations are incredibly important, masks are incredibly important and social distancing."

She says she has always had huge admiration for our frontline services - the health workforce, the emergency services and police.

"And you can see through Covid the job that they've been doing on behalf of all of us and continue to do so."

No one would ever want a situation where politicians are dictating how protests are managed, but the police's job is to make sure that's done in a safe and peaceful way.

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