1 Jan 2023

Politics in 2022: A children's playground on fire and bullying scandals rock Parliament

9:28 am on 1 January 2023
Make influenza great again protester with gas mask in front of fire

Unprecedented anti-mandate protests at Parliament shocked the country. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

It was a year of fiery protests, parliamentary resignations and scandal. Not to mention, Covid-19 is still in our midst.

Here is a round-up of what went down in New Zealand politics during 2022.


Arguably the most shocking protest of 2022 saw anti-mandate protesters occupy Parliament for weeks on end.

Protest occupation ending in chaos on parliament's forecourt, 2 March 2022

The Parliament occupation lasted weeks. Photo: VNP / Johnny Blades

It ended with police moving in to remove protesters - and resulted in Parliament's playground going up in flames.

The afternoon of 2 March saw fires lit, explosions, weapons used against police, injuries to officers and arrests.

It was livestreamed by major news outlets, as well as protesters themselves.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media she was angry and saddened to see Parliament desecrated in the way it was and said it demonstrated why her government had refused to engage with the group.

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Parliament's playground was set on fire in the chaos. Photo: RNZ

Ardern said there was a place for peaceful protest in this country, but "this is not the way that we engage and protest".

She said peaceful protest was the way to send a message, this by comparison was "a way to end up before the courts".

It took three months for Parliament's precinct to officially reopen after repairs.

The clean-up cost Wellington City Council more than $300,000, while the police operation set up to respond to the illegal occupation cost taxpayers more than $430,000.

Groundswell protesters in Christchurch Sunday.

Groundswell protests. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Farmers across the country took part in a number of Groundswell protests throughout 2022 - angry about the proposed emissions pricing scheme plan, saying it will result in higher food prices.

Groundswell protests saw disruption for motorists - with tractors being driven on motorways and on Auckland's Harbour Bridge.

Rail supporters have staged protests - bringing Wellington traffic to a grinding halt, upsetting motorists and annoying members of Parliament.

Restore Passenger Rail gantry protest in Wellington

Restore Passenger Rail protests. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The protests have also resulted in a number of arrests.

Restore Passenger Rail group claims to want passenger rail services restored to year-2000 levels.

Minister of Transport Michael Wood said he was grumpy on behalf of the thousands of commuters disrupted by such protests.

"I think that these actions are dangerous, they are not acceptable and actually many people who have been advocating for better public transport and better passenger rail agree with me that these actions are counterproductive."


Trevor Mallard, Louisa Wall, Kris Faafoi and Simon Bridges all bid adieu to parliament this year.

Trevor Mallard delivering his valedictory address in Parliament.

Trevor Mallard resigned from his position as Speaker. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Mallard left his position of Speaker, having announced he had been appointed New Zealand's next Ambassador to Ireland.

Mallard spent 38 years working in Parliament, first elected as MP for Hamilton West in 1984.

His political career was colourful and not without controversy.

But he is also a big fan of children, and gained international attention after feeding and cradling babies in the debating chamber.

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Louisa Wall left Parliament after 14 years. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Former Labour MP Louisa Wall left Parliament after 14 years in April - using her valedictory speech to accuse the party president of leading a corrupt process.

Despite never holding a ministerial position, Wall has a long list of legislative achievements, including her successful campaign to legalise same-sex marriage.

Labour Minister Kris Faafoi has announced he is leaving politics

Kris Faafoi resigned to spend more time with his family. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Labour's Kris Faafoi also resigned after 12 years as an MP - wanting to spend more time with his family as his youngest son started school.

In a shock exit which sparked a by-election, National's Simon Bridges resigned from politics in March.

Bridges said his decision to leave stemmed from the desire to explore opportunities in the corporate world and spend more time with his family.

National Party MP Simon Bridges gives his Valedictory Statement

Former National Party leader Simon Bridges resigned from politics in March. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The Bridges have since moved to Auckland and Simon Bridges is now the chief executive of Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

Sam Uffindell

National's Sam Uffindell became the Tauranga MP following Bridges' resignation.

Soon after Uffindell was elected, it was revealed that he had been kicked out of King's College for beating a younger student.

Sam Uffindell

National Party MP Sam Uffindell admitted he was a bully at school. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Further allegations about Uffindell's time as a university student in Dunedin came to light and Uffindell was stood down while an investigation was carried out.

The investigation did not substantiate allegations of bullying outside of Uffindell's time at King's College and he was welcomed back to National's caucus.

Gaurav Sharma

While the National Party dealt with bullying allegations surrounding Sam Uffindell, the Labour Party was dealing with its own alleged bullying scandal.

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma was expelled from the Labour Party after going rogue. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Former Hamilton West MP Gaurav Sharma wrote an opinion piece, alleging Parliament bullying and wrote lengthy posts on social media.

He also shared screenshots on social media of messages he claimed were from fellow MPs also alleging bullying by former whip Kieran McAnulty. McAnulty has rejected the claims.

Sharma was eventually expelled from the Labour Party and later resigned as an MP, triggering a by-election.

Covid-19 restrictions ease, borders reopen

2022 saw heavy Covid-19 restrictions and it also saw restrictions (mostly) removed altogether.

Air New Zealand planes at Auckland Airport.

New Zealand's border has reopened to the world. Photo: Unsplash / Douglas Bagg

August saw New Zealand's border completely reopen to the world - having started in May.

In September, the traffic light system was scrapped and so were mask requirements. Now, people are only required to wear a mask while in health and aged care facilities.

Household contacts of Covid-19 cases no longer need to isolate alongside their infected family members and all government vaccine mandates have ended.

This is despite thousands of daily Covid-19 cases still being announced.

Local body elections

Last October's local body elections saw most major cities elect new mayors.

In Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, cities have new mayors who will likely sit politically further to the right on the political spectrum than their predecessors.

Wellington was the outlier, electing former Green Party staffer Tory Whanau as mayor.

Tory Whanau

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Auckland elected Wayne Brown - beating out Efeso Collins for the top job.

Outgoing Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, who had been serving for 24 years, said he was shattered not to have a seat in the council chambers after losing to deputy mayor Nobby Clark.

Gore elected 23-year-old Ben Bell as its mayor - making him the youngest mayor in New Zealand history.

Ben Bell, Gore

Mayor of Gore Ben Bell. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publicly endorsed Collins for Auckland and Paul Eagle for Wellington - but neither won.

She congratulated all winners in a statement.

"We won't always agree, but I absolutely believe we all get into politics with very similar motivations - to do the best by our communities."

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