A protest organised by Brian Tamaki and the Freedom and Rights Coalition aims to cause “chaos” today. Video / Supplied / Michael Craig
* Stated plan to cause “major public interruption and disruption” achieved
* Sections of Auckland’s Southern Motorway were closed
* Motorcyclists rode on wrong side of the road
* Traffic blocked on Wellington CBD streets by marchers
* Angry Auckland motorists throw projectiles at motorway-blockers
* Automobile Association calls for calm on the roads
Some anti-Government protesters whose Southern Motorway-blocking antics caused huge traffic delays were struck by projectiles thrown by furious – and delayed – motorists.
And police have spoken out about the actions of protesters, saying some will face charges.
On the eve of Saturday’s protest events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – organised by Destiny Church founder Brian Tamaki and the Freedom and Rights Coalition – those involved stated they wanted to cause “major public interruption and disruption”.
And they achieved that, most notably in Auckland where both southbound and northbound lanes of the Southern Motorway around Newmarket were closed when hundreds of marchers gained access.
The Destiny Church leader spoke at the Auckland Domain protest and commented on the potential for civil unrest stating “the other solution I already mentioned is the Sri Lankan solution” citing the widespread protests in the Asian country this month.
While the lanes of the Southern Motorway were reopened after about an hour, the actions of the protesters created huge traffic snarl-ups.
It lead to a backlash from some motorists, with plastic bottles being thrown at some protesters.
Police said they were now considering charges against some involved in the protest.
“While the protesters were walking on the motorway our priority was to actively police their movements to ensure the safety of everyone,” Auckland Central Area Commander Graeme Anderson said.
“Now the protest has concluded, we will review the actions of those involved with a view to prosecution for being on the motorway.”
In addition to the offence of pedestrians on the motorway, police noted poor driving decisions by motorists including motorcyclists without helmets, children riding in the back of a ute, and at least one pedestrian who put themselves at significant risk by moving into a live traffic lane.
By noon, about a thousand protesters had walked up a southbound onramp of the Southern Motorway, leading to lane closures between the Khyber Pass onramp and Market Rd.
Shortly after, protesters managed to get onto the northbound lanes of the Southern Motorway near Market Rd, leading to NZTA and police closing those lanes.
The lanes both ways were reopened before 1pm. But the impact of the closures lead to some long Saturday commutes for others.
At one stage congestion northbound was back to Mt Wellington. While traffic heading southbound was gridlocked back to the lead-up to the Harbour Bridge.
“While the organisers put out a press release the night before, they refused to engage with Auckland Police prior to the protest to provide detail about their intended route and did not divulge this information until the protest began,” Anderson said.
“This was extremely disappointing as it meant our staff and Waka Kotahi had to move quickly to keep all road users in the area safe.
“This was reckless behaviour on part of the organisers and participants. I don’t know why they would think this was a safe act to undertake, and it had the added consequence of causing disruption to members of the community who were just trying to go about their day.”
Tamaki told Radio New Zealand he will soon make an announcement regarding three minor parties forming a coalition.
Tamaki said the parties have made the commitment to operate under a new umbrella.
“I’m in talks with others. So it looks like there’s going to be a new party on the block.
“We want to bring reform to this political establishment. It needs changing. We want to get it out of the hands of parties, and into the hands of people.”
Tamaki said he has no interest in personally running for Parliament, preferring to act in an advisory role to the new party.
Simon Douglas, general manager – Motoring Affairs for AA, urged motorists to show patience.
“It’s that time with the end of school holidays where we are all trying to get where we’re going, but it is important we take a deep breath and be as patient as possible.”
In Auckland, people began gathering in the Auckland Domain from about 9am.
A convoy of more than 30 motorbikes arrived at the Domain around 9.45am.
Members of it rode on the wrong side of the road once inside the public park – meaning any other traffic going the other way would have to wait for them – before parking up near the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
An earlier press release from the Tamaki-led coalition, stated “massive” public marches would take place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in response to what the coalition deemed was Government-inflicted damage on the country.
“It is our intention to cause a major public interruption and disruption,” it read.
“We will likely cause motorway mayhem in Auckland, and chaos in these major cities as we raise public awareness to the damage this Government is causing across this country.”
Smaller crowds gathered in Wellington and Christchurch.
After leaving Wellington’s Civic Square, a group initially blocked Victoria St, with motorists beeping their horns in frustration.
The protest actions led to gridlocked traffic in both directions.
Later they blocked lanes on Wakefield St and Jervois Quay.
Police said there were about 200 people involved in both the Christchurch and Wellington protests.
“There were no arrests in Christchurch and one person will be summoned in Wellington for a driving-related matter,” a spokesperson said.
The coalition had organised and supported many protests across the country in the past 18 months, including the 23-day occupation of Parliament grounds earlier this year.
Reasons for the protest cited in the press release included but were not limited to; the high cost of living, understaffing of hospitals, GPs being overworked, education problems, three-waters legislation, a mental health crisis and under-resourced first responders.
In January, Tamaki was arrested for breaching bail conditions and spent nine days inside Auckland’s Mt Eden Corrections Facility.
Prior to that, he had been charged three times over his attendance at Auckland Domain lockdown protests.
The coalition’s press release cited New Zealand had been “voted the 2nd worst place to live in” beaten only by Kuwait in the Middle East.
The remark was seemingly a reference to a survey of immigrants who considered New Zealand the second-worst country to move to out of 52 of the world’s near-200 countries.
The survey was conducted by expatriate networking organisation InterNations and was informed by responses from nearly 12,000 people of 177 different nationalities, living in 181 countries.
Respondents were reportedly asked how their new homes performed on factors including quality of life, cost of living, safety, financial outlook, bureaucracy, and ease of fitting in.
New Zealand’s 51st place in the survey was mostly due to lower wages and high cost of living.
Mexico was ranked first in the survey, ahead of Indonesia, Taiwan, Portugal, and Spain.