The “sovereign citizens” movement has reached New Zealand, and their focus is Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour. Here’s what’s going on down there.
A small group has been keeping watch over several yachts in the Auckland Viaduct, led by former union organiser Sharna Butcher. They make various allegations, the most serious of which is that yachts currently berthed in Auckland are involved in child trafficking, and that the government is aware of this.
The group’s theories have been amplified on social media, particularly Instagram, attracting the attention of Niu FM host Monzee and freelance writer Ben Vidgen, and their cause has been signal boosted by interactions with Millie Elder Holmes and rugby players Eliota Sapolu and Billy Vunipola.
What is a sovereign citizen?
These are citizens of a country that believe they are beholden only to their own interpretation of the country’s laws. It began in the US, but has been spreading throughout the Commonwealth recently.
Which yachts do they have a problem with?
As outlined in a Twitter thread below, the protests – more of a standing watch – are focused on superyacht The Dancing Hare, but several others are also of note to protestors. One is The Beast, owned by jewellery millionaire Sir Michael Hill; another is Senses, owned by Google co-founder Larry Page.
The Viaduct harbourmaster confirmed to The Spinoff that all three of these yachts had been in New Zealand prior to lockdown.
The Dancing Hare has a somewhat chequered past. It was the yacht publishing mogul and fraudster Robert Maxwell was cruising on when he drowned in the Canary Islands. At the time of his death, the yacht was named the Lady Ghislaine, after Maxwell’s daughter Ghislaine Maxwell (the alleged partner of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in both crime and life).
However, The Dancing Hare has changed owners and been entirely refitted since the incident.
Stuff reports the yacht has been in New Zealand since January, two months before borders closed. The new owners and the identities of those currently on board are unknown. However, it’s registered to a French company named Touille, and is flying the Marshall Islands flag.
According to the Ports of Auckland log, the Samaya – owner unknown but alleged (by Butcher and co) to be Ghislaine Maxwell – arrived in Auckland today. Its last known port was also Auckland, so, at least on paper, it’s not a new arrival to the country.
What are these yachts alleged to be doing?
Allegedly, trafficking children and venting hydrogen cyanide into the harbour. The full thread states that Australia and New Zealand are “two of the most largest child trafficking/sex trafficking hubs in the world”, which is a horrible thought but also not true. The UN global report on trafficking does not rank countries, but it’s clear New Zealand and Australia are not large hubs in comparison with a swathe of other countries.
The thought that child abuse is going on under our noses is terrifying, and of course is stirring people into action. The evidence the group has collected to prove it’s happening is – again, allegedly – torn children’s clothing and cable ties found in the harbour rubbish, and an image of a white rabbit on The Dancing Hare (rabbits and hares are very closely related). White rabbit imagery is associated with the nebulous chemical compound adrenochrome.
The group has alleged the harbourmaster has allowed hydrogen cyanide to vent into the harbour via these yachts. When asked, Auckland Council said it was not aware of any hydrogen cyanide venting in the city, and said it wasn’t something it measured for. Hydrogen cyanide is a deadly chemical that was used as a genocidal agent by the Germans in World War II.
In a video on Instagram, it appears the group has called the fire department in to test the air, which smells off to them. Firefighters can be seen testing the air quality in the Viaduct. Off screen, someone says they have read hydrogen cyanide in the air at two parts per million.
A Fire and Emergency Department spokesperson said he was aware there had been some testing carried out, and said that to his knowledge there was not a toxic amount of hydrogen cyanide in the air near the Viaduct. “You can go ‘case closed’, shut the door on that one,” he said.
The group claims they’ve carried out their own testing of the water, results of which are yet to be announced.
What are the protestors doing about their concerns?
Outside of keeping watch over The Dancing Hare – sometimes too closely, as seen in an arrest for trespassing last week – they’re servicing notices.
On multiple occasions, Butcher has stated her intent to serve notice to authority figures “for allowing paedophiles and child traffickers to be in our port”, “for breaching duty of care to the New Zealand public”, “for breaking the UN covenant for the protection of child and children’s rights”.
She has said she will serve Auckland mayor Phil Goff and the Children’s Commissioner.
She has also stated in a video update that spiritual ascension warriors will “flood those tunnels”, but it’s unclear if this is a metaphor or literal.