About 20 Tauranga residents were in the thick of it yesterday as protesters descended on Auckland ahead of the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Trade Minister Todd McClay signed the TPP on behalf of New Zealand at a ceremony at SkyCity in Auckland yesterday.
Read more: Tauranga protesters march against TPP
Mr McClay said the next step was for the Government to submit the final text of the TPP and the national interest analysis to Parliament, and the legislative changes to implement the agreement would then go through normal policy and parliamentary procedures.
Mel Caldwell, co-organiser of the Tauranga TPPA Action Network, said a convoy of four vehicles containing about 20 people travelled to Auckland to be a part of the protest action.
Ms Caldwell said the convoy had to park at Mount Eden to make their way through to Queen St as roads leading to SkyCity had been blocked.
Central Auckland ground to a halt as the signing loomed with up to 10,000 protesters at the scene.
Ms Caldwell said the convoy was buoyed by the support they received on their way to Auckland with lots of toots from other motorists and spectators as they made their way down Queen St.
We got at least 110 toots from passing cars and about 50 people yelled out support.
So were two lone protesters who walked from Merivale to The Strand yesterday carrying signs with anti-TPP messages for Prime Minister John Key.
Waiariki Te Kaawa, 16, and his cousin Moewaka Biddle, 24, both from Merivale, said they would have liked to have been up in Auckland with the rest of the protesters
"Heaps of our whanau and friends were up there, but we couldn't be there so we thought we'd hold our own protest march.
"We got at least 110 toots from passing cars and about 50 people yelled out support," Ms Biddle said.
The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic horticulture students said despite reassurances from Mr Key they were not convinced this deal was good for New Zealand.
"I don't trust anything to do with the TPP. I think this agreement has really undermined our democratic rights and freedoms which had been taken from right under our noses."
Ms Biddle said one of their greatest fears was the country would have to allow the other 11 countries to come in and "rape our seabeds" and other precious resources, and the Government had signed away hard-won Treaty of Waitangi rights for Maori.
Mr Te Kaawa, a Year 12 student at Te Wharekura o Tauranga Moana, said: "We're from Whakatohea and Tuhoe iwi but are also representing Tauranga Moana in our protest action.
"Where are all the other Tauranga Moana people who say they are so concerned about what is happening?" he asked.
Ms Biddle said the signing of the TPP did not mean the end of the protest action, as the deal still had to be legally ratified - "it's far from being a totally done deal".
Prime Minister John Key said the TPP would be overwhelmingly positive for New Zealand in supporting more trade and investment, jobs and incomes.
"TPP is our biggest-ever free trade deal and is estimated to boost our economy by at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030. That will help to diversify our economy and mean more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders," he said.