Several thousand protesters converged on downtown Auckland this afternoon to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
It was one of 15 such events around the country today to protest the free trade agreement (the TPPA) which is currently being negotiated between 12 countries, including New Zealand, behind closed doors.
Crowd estimates from local organisers were: 1,000 in Auckland, 400 in Wellington, 200 in Hamilton and Nelson, 125 in Whangarei, 100 each in Tauranga, Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin, 80 in Palmerston North and New Plymouth, and 30 in Invercargill.
The Auckland protest began in Aotea Square at 1pm, where the crowd was addressed by speakers from a spectrum of political parties, unions and advocacy groups.
The protesters, holding placards with "New Zealand is not for sale" and "TPPA = Death to Democracy", chanted "TPPA, no way" as they marched down Queen St to the US Consulate General's office on Customs St.
Left-wing commentator Martyn Bradbury, who led the Auckland protest, was amazed with the turnout.
"I think that it really shows that economic sovereignty issues are actually quite central to New Zealanders' concept about who they are and how they see themselves and losing that kind of sovereignty is a major concern — it's no longer just a fringe issue."
Former Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, whose speech on the ills of the TPPA received the loudest cheers of the day, said the agreement was "an extremely dangerous initiative".
"At the heart it is a huge lie which pretends this is about trade. It's not about trade, it's about allowing foreign corporations to over-ride the decisions of democratically elected governments.
"The fact that it has a specific clause in it to allow investor corporations to sue our government if it takes any actions which reduces their profits ... that is the most anti-democratic thing that has ever happened in my lifetime."
Labour leader David Cunliffe received a few heckles but generally polite applause when he outlined his party's stance on the TPPA to the crowd.
"We are demanding the Government release the text and the details," he said. "This deal needs to be in the public domain so that New Zealanders can be informed and we can have a proper public debate ... I can't say today what our final position is going to be because we are going to wait until we see the details."
The event was peaceful, with protesters complying with police's request to leave a lane open to buses.
In Wellington, more than 50 people marched through the central business district to Parliament, where the crowd swelled to a few hundred.
In the crowd was New Zealand actor Nathaniel Lees, who appeared in Sione's Wedding and some of the Matrix films.
He said attending the protest was about standing up for New Zealanders. "At this point and time, I have a choice about having a say about what is going on.
"If this treaty agreement comes through, I lose that choice, my daughters lose that choice, their children lose that choice."
In the Bay of Plenty, more than 100 people marched up Devonport Rd, with campaigners calling on the government to stop the secret negotiations.
Speakers included Mana party president Annette Sykes, Green party branch (Tauranga-Bay of Plenty) co-convenor Ron Lopert, independent MP Brendan Horan and concerned local residents. The group then marched to the National party office on upper Devonport Rd.
- Additional reporting APNZ, Bay of Plenty Times