Police investigating Kennedy Point protesters' claims of violence by development workers

5:21 pm on 7 July 2021

Tensions are rising at the Kennedy Point marina development site as footage appears of altercations between security and protesters, who claim they have been physically harmed.

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Kennedy Point on Waiheke Island. File photo. Photo: Rose Davis

Footage from the site on Waiheke Island today also showed what appeared to be a scuffle between occupiers and people in hard hats and high-vis jackets.

It comes after a previous incident filmed last week, where workers were seen ramming a boat into protesters who were sandwiched between large black buoys surrounding the construction zone, which left one with neck, chest and wrist injuries.

Both incidents were livestreamed on Facebook.

Protect Pūtiki occupation spokesperson Emily Weiss said the force used by Warden Consulting security guards on behalf of the developers had been scary.

The incident where a protester received injuries was an example of the boat being used as a weapon, she said.

"We are only holding the frontline in response to the lack of intervention and the lack of upholding of Te Tiriti that our Crown is currently doing," Weiss said.

"That means we are putting our safety and wellbeing at risk, but we have to because until Auckland Council, the Crown and our government step in and show an understanding that this is an injustice ... we have no choice but to be here enacting our kaitiakitanga."

Police were aware of last week's incident and said it was still under investigation.

Auckland Central Police area commander inspector Gary Davey said police were also aware of today's incident.

"Some of those present have trespassed at the marina construction site. We note that a number of security staff on site were assaulted whilst exercising their legal right to prevent trespass from occurring," Davey said.

"Local police staff attended after this incident occurred, however, due to the location of protesters it was deemed unsafe to remove them today. While police recognise the public's right to protest peacefully and lawfully, we are disappointed in the behaviour displayed today.

"Police will be following this matter up and will be laying charges against protesters that have committed criminal offences."

'The right to build a marina'

Kennedy Point Boatharbour director Kitt Littlejohn said the company was undertaking an internal review addressing the incidents of violence which were caught on multiple cameras.

Several staff had been stood down last week, citing the constant abuse they were facing, but he did not know if those workers who had used the boat to ram into protesters had been stood down or not, he said.

"It's a bit of catch 22 for the construction company, to that extent they have to assist people to get out of the way when they put themselves in harm's way," Littlejohn said.

"We're undertaking an internal review to see what happened."

He claims his staff were victims too - with some of them off work feeling distressed after being abused and having items thrown at them.

"What needs to happen is the world needs to recognise that a resource consent's been granted for this. It's been to the Supreme Court. The highest court in this land affirmed the right to build a marina in that location. The sooner that right is respected and we can all work out a way forward, the better," Littlejohn said.

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Protesters, conservationists and native bird experts have serious concerns about the welfare and survival of the native kororā or little blue penguins who inhabit the area where the 186-berth marina is to be built. Photo: Rose Davis

It has been four months since the Protect Pūtiki occupation was initiated by members of Ngā Uri o Ngāti Pāoa.

The protesters have been challenging the resource consent granted to Kennedy Point Boatharbour Limited by Auckland Council for the proposed marina.

They say council failed to consult with the Ngāti Pāoa trust board that was recognised as the mandated mana whenua entity at the time.

Since early March protesters have called on council to revoke the original resource consent and stop all works for the development immediately.

It comes after serious concerns that protesters, conservationists and native bird experts have in regards to the welfare and survival of the native kororā or little blue penguins who inhabit the area where the 186 berth marina is to be built.

Calls to the Environment Minister David Parker, acting Conservation Minister Ayesha Verrall and now returning Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan have been made by the occupiers asking them to step in and intervene as tensions between the occupation and developers escalates.

Green Party MP for Central Auckland Chloe Swarbrick MP said the escalating tensions were disappointing.

Experts need to establish whether the conditions designed to protect the penguins near the construction site were being met, Swarbrick said.

"The government has the power here, whether it is through the Department of Conservation, to get more boots on the ground, to actually monitor those - I believe off the top of my head - 127 resource consent conditions."

Halt work until after breeding season - expert

One such expert, Massey University professor John Cockrem, said he would like the machinery halted.

"If they carry on they will repeatedly breach the consent conditions. So quite clearly that should not be happening," he said.

Cockrem said it was now kororā breeding season, which meant developers should be staying clear of the habitat until about March - as is practice at other similar sites he had visited.

"Any construction activity conducted before next year could lead to the loss of eggs or chicks, could lead to birds abandoning their nests. Work should not be happening anywhere near the breakwater wall until after the breeding season and the malting period which will be into next year," he said.

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