17 Feb 2022

Protest outside Parliament: Speaker Trevor Mallard says no dialogue until blockade clears

5:59 pm on 17 February 2022

All parties in Parliament have united under a clear declaration to the protesters outside - there will be no dialogue while illegal activity persists.

No caption

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Earlier this week, the protesting groups, who are opposed to a range of the government's Covid-19 measures including vaccine mandates, sent a letter to senior ministers, asking for an urgent meeting.

Hundreds of cars, vans and campervans remain ensconced in several streets alongside Parliament, where the protest is in its tenth day.

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard, in his role as Chair of the Parliamentary Service Commission, issued the statement on the parties' behalf.

It stated politicians will not speak with protestors until the illegally parked vehicles blocking streets are moved, unauthorised structures are removed and the intimidation of Wellingtonians ceases.

"We note that there is a history of Parliamentarians attending peaceful protests or hearing from the leaders of groups who are at Parliament peacefully," Mallard said.

The statement makes no commitment to commence dialogue if the illegal activity stops.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said while he supported the statement, it was not sufficient.

"We need a clear de-escalation strategy from the government," Luxon said.

"For our part, National is willing to engage with protesters' representatives should they become peaceful and law abiding, clear Wellington's streets, and stop their abusive behaviour - and I would encourage other parties to do the same.

"National is strongly pro-vaccination, and there is much misinformation being spread by the protesters that I completely disagree with.

"However, there are frustrations shared by law-abiding and well-intentioned people up and down the country about the government's approach to Covid and its lack of a plan. The government must not dismiss all criticism out of hand."

Earlier today, the government activated a top level national security group - the Officials' Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination - to coordinate different agencies' response to the protesters together.

Police remain the lead agency responding to the protest.

After Mallard's statement, police said they would "continue to engage with protest leaders to bring the protest into a lawful state so that dialogue is possible".

"In the meantime, we will continue to keep the peace and maintain a visible reassurance presence around the precinct."

No caption

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Identity of one of protest groups' reps revealed

Although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Christopher Luxon were on the same page about not meeting with the protesters, yesterday ACT party leader David Seymour and ACT MP Nicole McKee met with representatives of the group.

Today, Seymour said it was in the protesters' interests to clear the roads.

He reiterated that it was time for mature de-escalation.

"That requires the protesters meeting us half way. If they can move the cars, stop illegal activity and show some good faith, politicians will be more likely to listen to their concerns, many of which are legitimate."

Checkpoint has revealed that one of the intermediaries spoken to by Seymour on the Parliament protest is Glenn Inwood.

Inwood has previously worked for Radio New Zealand and was a spokesperson for the institute that runs Japan's so-called "scientific" whaling programme. He was also press secretary in the Clark Labour government working for then-minister Lianne Dalziel.

Now, according to his professional profile, Inwood is a partner in a firm specialising in marine global governance.

He confirmed he was at meeting, but would not explain his exact role.

Iwi leaders call for solution to occupation amid threats

Meanwhile, Wellington iwi leaders have called for an end to the protest at parliament and have also condemned comparisons made by protesters to the assault at Parihaka.

The parliament complex and surrounding streets form part of the historic Pipitea Pā.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust chairperson Kara Puketapu-Dentice said the ongoing occupation required a political solution.

"Our political leaders need to find a way out of this and stop the harm that's happening on our ancestral lands, with some protesters having threatened our people and property," he said in a statement.

"We've already had smashed windows and threats made against some of our kuia and kaumātua and uri involved in the Covid response."

Taranaki Whānui also condemned comparisons made by protesters to Parihaka, the pacifist settlement in western Taranaki which was violently assaulted by Crown forces in 1881.

Puketapu-Dentice said such comparisons were wrong, and amounted to cultural misappropriation.

Ngāti Toa said it, too, wanted an end to the scenes in Thorndon, condemning threatening behaviour and describing aspects of the protest as deplorable.

Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira supported the people's right to protest, it said, but added that its offices, marae and uri had been the target of intimidating and threatening behaviour for trying to support their communities.

"As mana whenua of Wellington, we have watched the protest at Parliament with mixed feelings. The genuine anguish and anger of protesters has been evident and confronting, and given our history, is well understood by us," chief executive Helmut Modlik said.

The Rūnanga said the public health response had been world leading and saved New Zealanders' lives, but had clearly been painful for many.

"We understand that, and call on the government to urgently evaluate the options for removing and healing that pain," Modlik said.

"However, the intimidating and threatening behaviour that some protesters have shown towards the Wellington community, and in particular, tamariki and rangatahi on their way to and from school, has been deplorable."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs