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blog feb 22


Wellington occupation live: Police ‘appalled’ by protester behaviour

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 22, coming to you from Wellington. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a question or just want to say hi? Reach me on

The latest

  • The Spinoff’s live updates are on the ground in Wellington this week and will be bringing you coverage of the protest as it happens
  • There are 2,846 new community cases of Covid-19 and 143 cases in hospital. One person is in intensive care.
  • Police say they are “appalled” by the behaviour of protesters. Today, one person attempted to drive a car into police outside parliament. At least three officers had to seek medical treatment after being sprayed with an unknown substance.
  • Police are continuing to investigate after protesters threw human waste at them.
blog feb 22

Wellington occupation live: Police ‘appalled’ by protester behaviour

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 22, coming to you from Wellington. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a question or just want to say hi? Reach me on

The latest

  • The Spinoff’s live updates are on the ground in Wellington this week and will be bringing you coverage of the protest as it happens
  • There are 2,846 new community cases of Covid-19 and 143 cases in hospital. One person is in intensive care.
  • Police say they are “appalled” by the behaviour of protesters. Today, one person attempted to drive a car into police outside parliament. At least three officers had to seek medical treatment after being sprayed with an unknown substance.
  • Police are continuing to investigate after protesters threw human waste at them.
Feb 22 2022

Police return to parliament to move concrete blocks

Police in Wellington gathered in numbers late this afternoon to move the concrete bollards serving as the protest perimeter around parliament. Hundreds of police officers formed a border line around the cenotaph outside the Beehive as a forklift moved a concrete block in place. The blocks were placed to reduce congestion and open up traffic flow.

Stuff reported that blocks placed earlier this week were being moved by protesters using the pallets beneath the blocks. Today’s operation saw police return the blocks to their positions and remove all the pallets.

Image: Justin Giovannetti

Protesters and commuters alike watched the operation, with ‘Where is the Love’ by the Black Eyed Peas blasting from the protest side and occasional clapping from the commuter side. By 5.30, all the pallets had been removed and the police – some wearing riot helmets and holding shields – had left the area.

Demand for RATs high at Auckland testing centres

Rapid antigen tests (Image: Tina Tiller)

Demand for Covid-19 tests in Tāmaki Makaurau has remained high today, with at least two west Auckland testing sites running out of rapid antigen tests (RATs) before having stocks replenished.

Earlier today Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust, which operates two testing sites in West Auckland, posted on its Facebook page that both its sites had run out of the tests, which can be self-administered and provide results within minutes. The trust had received a fresh supply of RATs this afternoon.

RATs were rolled out at Auckland testing sites yesterday, when just under 4,500 were distributed by community testing centres, according to the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC). Demand was at a similar level today, and while RAT figures were not yet available, 4,328 PCR tests had been carried out by 2pm, said a spokesperson.

Testing centre staff will assess those seeking a test and determine whether a RAT test is suitable to be taken home and self-administered. As the tests are less reliable than the PCR tests, a follow-up swab is usually required if the RAT result is positive.

The Ministry of Health and NRHCC are urging people to get tested only if they meet public health criteria. Police earlier today warned of “significant traffic disruption” around testing sites in Auckland due to high demand (see 2.24pm update). There were 1,802 new cases of Covid-19 in the community in Tāmaki Makaurau today.

Winston Peters returns to parliament – to talk to protesters

Winston Peters in Wellington

Former deputy prime minister Winston Peters has arrived at parliament to speak to those occupying the grounds, to cheers and applause from protesters.

Flanked by former New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball, Peters has been pictured mobbed by supporters, with many asking for selfies.

Winston Peters speaking to protesters at parliament this afternoon (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Peters, who is not wearing a mask, walked along the front of the group of protesters, stopping to shake hands and speak with people, and is now inside the main tent.

Winston Peters speaking to protesters inside a tent at parliament (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The NZ First leader has come out in support of ditching vaccination mandates in recent days and called on senior MPs to speak to the crowd.

His attendance the protest had not been announced.

Wellington Free Ambulance won’t enter protest area due to ‘increase in hostilities’

Wellington Free Ambulance will no longer enter the protest area at parliament, citing an “increase in hostilities” from occupiers.

The decision was made following the behaviour of protesters last night and this morning.

“As the only provider of ambulance services in the region, we will continue to support people requiring urgent medical attention, but this will be at a designated safe space outside the recently established cordon,” said a statement.

“Please be assured that if residents, people at their place of work or shopping in or close by the protest zone require support we will respond as per standard procedure.”

Emergency services have had trouble entering the protest area due to the vehicles blocking surrounding streets.

Ardern condemns ‘disgraceful’ protest, occupiers unfazed

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

Jacinda Ardern has labelled the protest “disgraceful” and said she’s worried about the safety of police on the grounds of parliament.

Speaking to media in Auckland, the prime minister noted that some in the protest had been acting in an “increasingly violent way towards police officers”. She also criticised Christopher Luxon for a speech he gave yesterday, saying that it drifted “dangerously close to sympathy” with the protest.

But those at occupying parliament remain largely unfazed, with one protester telling The Spinoff live updates he was in it “for the long haul”. He said that he did not expect any of the core protesters would vacate the premises until they had their demands met. Even if Ardern or a senior MP came and spoke to the crowd, the protester speculated that the crowd would remain unless vaccination mandates were removed.

“I’ll be here until ‘the man’ listens to the people,” he said. As for whether the crowd could still be labelled “anti-mandate”, he believed so but acknowledged that many who were anti-mandate were also anti-vaccination.

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

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Police warn of ‘significant traffic congestion’ near Auckland testing sites

Cars queuing for a Covid test at Balmoral testing centre in Auckland last week (Photo: Jane Yee)

Police are advising motorists to avoid areas around some Covid-19 testing sites in Auckland as “large queues of vehicle are causing significant traffic disruption”.

Congestion is particularly bad around the Takanini community testing centre, the Whānau Ora community clinic in Wiri, and the Northcote community testing centre on the North Shore, said police in a statement.

“Police are working with the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) and traffic management plans are being put into place to ease this disruption,” said the statement, which added that people needing a test should consider visiting a different testing centre.

Auckland testing sites have been under significant pressure in recent days as cases rise in the region. Yesterday, rapid antigen tests were rolled out at Auckland testing sites in an attempt to relieve some of that pressure. The Ministry of Health and NRHCC are urging people to get tested only if they are symptomatic or meet public health criteria.

A full list of testing sites is available on the Healthpoint website, and wait times for different sites are added by users at Time in the Line.

Covid-19 update: 2,846 new community cases, 143 in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

There are 2,846 new community cases of Covid-19 and 143 cases in hospital. One person is in intensive care.

Of today’s new cases, 1,802 are in Auckland. New cases have also been located in Northland (36), Waikato (285), Bay of Plenty (86), Lakes (19), Hawke’s Bay (25), MidCentral (25), Whanganui (19), Taranaki (26), Tairāwhiti (17), Wairarapa (2), Capital and Coast (84), Hutt Valley (25), Nelson Marlborough (77), Canterbury (105), South Canterbury (4) and the Southern DHB area (206).

Another 15 cases have been confirmed at the border.

Today’s hospitalisation rate is another high from throughout the pandemic. However, the intensive care rate remains steady at one. As Siouxsie Wiles wrote for The Spinoff today: “With delta and omicron circulating in New Zealand, the majority of us who have had our booster shot should come out of the experience relatively unscathed, at least in the short term.”

There were 24,351 tests for Covid-19 administered yesterday, about 5,000 below the seven-day rolling average. There are 7.3 million rapid antigen tests in the country. As per usual, the Ministry of Health has also reminded people not to get tested unless they are symptomatic, a close contact, or have been advised to do so by a health official.

“As demand for testing has grown, some Covid-19 test results for Auckland and Waikato are currently taking longer to process at laboratories,” said a spokesperson. “The use of rapid antigen testing, alongside PCR testing, will improve this process at a time of exceptional demand in phase two, provided the community testing centre queues are freely available for those who really need a test.”

On the vaccine front, another 27,770 booster doses were administered nationwide. There were also 471 first doses and 981 second doses – combined, more than the total number of people outside parliament right now. There were also 66 third primary doses, 1,273 paediatric first doses and 125 paediatric second doses.

Image: Toby Morris

$140m omicron funding boost for Māori and Pacific health providers

A $140 million boost in funding for 160 Māori and Pacific health providers was announced this morning at Nga Whare Waatea marae in Māngere, South Auckland. 

The funding, which follows on from the $204.1 million Covid Care in the Community model announced last year, will support providers, Whānau Ora commissioning agencies and local community services to get resources to those needing to self-isolate. 

John Tamihere, who is both the vice-president of the Māori Party and chief executive of the Te Whānau O Waipareira trust, lauded the injection of cash, saying he’s never seen this level of support before, both in terms of the amount of money and the level of trust the government is putting into providers to determine the best way to care for their community. 

“Today is an acknowledgement of our magic people and the magnificence of their work. I just really want to thank the prime minister and these ministers for acknowledging the mana of our communities and the ability they have for self-determination,” he said at the announcement.

South Seas Healthcare has led much of the response to Covid in South Auckland and its chief executive, Lemalu Silao Vaisola Sefo, said this funding will ensure churches, such as this one profiled by The Spinoff, will get extra support to continue their grassroots efforts.

“Our churches and community groups are already providing solutions that we don’t have, so this will help us give that extra layer of support to them.”

There are currently more than 6,000 active cases in South Auckland, and Māori and Pacific make up more than 50% of new infections. Minister for Pacific peoples and Māngere electorate MP Aupito William Sio says the fund is designed to enable providers to be agile in how they support families and “encourage innovative Pacific models of care”.

“This investment is innovative, comprehensive, and Pacific-focused, allowing Pacific peoples to prepare for the next phase of Covid-19 and to respond and rebuild in the aftermath of omicron,” Sio said.

Minister for Whānau Ora and associate minister of health Peeni Henare said it was no surprise omicron is disproportionately affecting Māori and Pasifika communities, but government is “committed to making sure vulnerable whānau received the support and care they deserve”.

Aupito William Sio at this morning’s funding announcement (Photo: Justin Latif

Occupation becomes ‘freedom village’ as protesters commit to staying

‘Freedom village’ (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Live from Wellington:

Protesters have officially declared the Wellington occupation a “village”, with a large banner flanking the entrance to parliament grounds.

‘Freedom village’ (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Despite it proclaiming “all welcome”, anyone wearing a face mask is treated to a few sideways glances and The Spinoff was labelled “fake news” by one protester – although from afar. The man was eventually silenced by a fellow protester, although not before others had applauded his comments. Stuff’s Henry Cooke was yesterday told to leave the grounds, despite parliament being a public area.

In further evidence the protesters are now treating their occupation as a village, street signs – including “No Booster Lane” and “Freedom Drive” – point people in different directions. At least one tent has a letterbox attached, though it looked empty.

One protester told The Spinoff that although the rally appeared to be settling down for a long stay, he believed people would slowly vacate parliament grounds. He believed the daily movements of police would encourage people on the surrounding Wellington streets that it was time to leave.

Police ‘extremely appalled’ by ongoing protester behaviour

Police take over an intersection leading to Parliament on the ninth day of demonstrations against Covid-19 restrictions in Wellington on February 16, 2022, inspired by a similar demonstration in Canada. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Police continue to be “extremely appalled” by the behaviour of protesters at parliament

Three officers, reported to be “doing well”, were taken to hospital this morning after being sprayed with a “stinging substance”. While initial media reports claimed this was being treated as acid, police assistant commissioner Richard Chambers told media that the substance was still undetermined.

“This sort of behaviour … is disgraceful and unacceptable,” he told reporters. “Police officers are going about their work as best as they possibly can to bring peace to this situation.”

A police spokesperson said officers were “fortunate to escape injury” after a person deliberately drove the wrong way down Molesworth Street. “Two people have been arrested for obstructing police and one person has been arrested for driving in a dangerous manner,” they said.

The decision for police to wear riot shields during this morning’s operation was after police were made aware of protesters’ plans to again throw human waste at officers. “It was entirely appropriate that we use shields to protect from faeces,” said Chambers. A police spokesperson added: “It has become increasingly clear that genuine protesters are no longer in control of the behaviour in and around parliament.”

There was a “suggestion” sexual assaults had taken place within the protest area, said Chambers. “We are the only agency that can investigate sexual assaults and if anyone would like to come forward to us … we will work with you as best we can.”

New podcast: The truth about being a tradie

A new podcast series is launching on The Spinoff Podcast Network today. Made in partnership with Trade Jobs NZ, On Site is hostsed by Jay Reeve and Brooke Thompson, and over the coming weeks they’ll be talking to everyone from apprentices to industry leaders about life in the trades and how they’d like to see the sector evolve in the future. In today’s first episode, Brooke talks about her journey to the trades, where it’s taken her so far and why she’s so excited about the future.

Follow On Site on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Oriini Kaipara moves to Newshub Nation, replacing Tova O’Brien

(Image : Newshub)

Journalist and newsreader Oriini Kaipara will co-host Newshub’s weekend politics programme Newshub Nation, replacing former political editor Tova O’Brien. She’ll join Simon Shepherd who returns to the show.

Kaipara has been with Newshub since last year, presenting the network’s afternoon and late news bulletins. As a guest host for Newshub Nation in 2021, she interviewed corrections minister Kelvin Davis in the programme’s first ever lead interview conducted largely in te reo Māori.

(Image : Newshub)

I’m thrilled to join Newshub Nation as co-host,” said Kaipara in a statement. “It’s vital we give fair, accurate and balanced views of Māori political issues that affect not just Māori but all of Aotearoa New Zealand. The steady uptake of te reo by politicians and society at large in recent times is testament to the value and mana of te reo and I’m focused on ensuring Māori views and voices are heard.”

The programme returns this Saturday at 9.30am.

Protest regroups after morning of police action

The protest on day 15 (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Live from Wellington:

Protesters have returned to parliament’s front lawn after a morning that saw at least one arrest and a confrontation with police.

The mood on the ground now is in stark contrast to images of police officers attempting to smash a car’s window open or reports of protesters throwing human waste. Instead, parliament grounds could be described as quiet, with the silence broken either by repeated renditions of the national anthem or by Trevor Mallard’s repeated message of trespass played over the loud speaker. That message is now met by applause and cheering or even louder singing of the anthem.

The protest on day 15 (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

One protester told The Spinoff’s live updates that he was at parliament not to protest vaccinations, but remained committed to tackling mandates – specifically against mask wearing. He identified as a “freedom protester”. When asked if he had been vaccinated, he showed his vaccine pass. The protester admitted that there were a few “dickheads” in the crowd who were “venting their anger”, referencing this morning’s incident, and expressed disappointment that the anti-mandate message had been overrun. However, he also said he believed mainstream media had misconstrued some of the protesters’ messages.

Parliament protest funding website linked to Canadian ‘Freedom Convoy’

A website set up to fund the ongoing occupation of parliament is registered in Toronto and linked to the Canadian “Freedom Convoy”, Stuff reports.

The website was first registered on Tuesday last week by Contact Privacy Inc, listing its address as 96 Mowat Ave, Toronto, according to the report. The internet domain name company Tucows Domains, which is also listed at that address, registered the domain for a website selling merchandise for the Canadian freedom convoy on January 30.

As of this morning, more than $35,000 had been raised on the website. Most donations are in the hundreds. “Donations are currently being used to fund infrastructure and equipment for the ground team, including the food crew. Examples are kitchen items, generators, marquees, tarpaulins, tools etc,” the site says.

Speaking to Morning Report this morning, Red Stag Timber chief executive Marty Verry, whose op-ed was published by the Herald yesterday, said he had donated to the protest via this website.

In an email, an unnamed spokesperson for the Wellington occupation told Stuff the “Toronto registration is a red herring”.

“It is simply the registrar’s details which are showing to protect the personal information of the domain holder given the harassment that is inevitable in situations like this.”

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Protester arrested after trying to drive car into police; three officers sprayed with ‘unknown substance’

Image: Facebook

A protester has been arrested outside parliament this morning after attempting to drive a car into police officers.

In footage viewed by The Spinoff, a white car can be seen speeding toward a group of officers before suddenly stopping. Police then swarm the vehicle, opening the passenger door and attempting to break the window on the driver’s side. Protesters can be heard yelling in the background.

Image: Facebook

The incident occurred during a police operation in which officers, many holding riot shields, tightened the perimeter around parliament grounds, moving concrete barriers further into areas occupied by protesters.

Police said “a large number” of protesters attempted to obstruct police. Objects, including human waste, were thrown and “at least three” officers require medical treatment after being sprayed with an unknown substance. A police source told The Spinoff they believe the substance was acid. Yesterday, police said protesters who threw human waste at officers installing concrete barriers could face prison time.

Leighton Baker, an intermediary talking to the protesters and the police, told RNZ he was unaware of the incident. “Both sides need to keep calm and do the right thing,” he said.