Anti-mandate protesters blocking roads and occupying Parliament grounds say they want to minimise disruption to Wellingtonians and plan to work with police.
The protesters say they have yet to receive a response to their letter yesterday demanding an urgent meeting with Government ministers and the immediate axing of vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 response rules.
"We strongly urge the government to engage – they want a solution, we want a solution."
The unnamed release says the "communications" represents the views of Convoy 2022 NZ, Freedom Alliance, New Zealand Doctors Speaking Out with Science, Outdoors & Freedom Movement, The Freedom and Rights Coalition, The Hood NZ and Voices for Freedom.
In response to claims occupiers have harassed passers by, spat at a bus driver, and bullied children for wearing masks, the group tried to distance itself from the reported behaviour.
"We are a peaceful movement and do not condone or tolerate aggression or intimidation. We have a dedicated internal security team to maintain a peaceful operation.
"We speak for the vast majority of the protestors present, but not all. Accusations have been made about threatening behaviour and we encourage the police to work with us on that to identify those involved."
The group claimed it had been "actively engaging" with police including on traffic management being mindful of public safety and wishing to minimise disruption to the people of Wellington.
"Despite this, police have today issued a statement regarding parking that we have not "shown any concern for the negative impact" of protestors' activities. This is yet more misinformation. Police know we have been highly involved in discussions with them and that we share their concerns."
Earlier today Police Commissioner Andrew Coster warned that "time was running out fast" for the occupation, saying police were preparing to tow illegally parked cars that have been blocking central Wellington roads for eight days.
But it's unclear how police will remove the protesters' vehicles. Coster appealed for tow truck companies to offer assistance and revealed a request for help to the Defense Force had received no response.
The protesters accused the Prime Minister of deliberately trying to portray the protest as being about vaccination. The group said the movement was more about vaccine mandates which "must end".
"The Prime Minister accuses the protestors of spreading misinformation, while claiming support for the mandates because 95% of New Zealanders are vaccinated. It's that claim which is misinformation.
"We therefore challenge Labour to run a national poll and share the results, asking New Zealanders: "Do you support the mandates?"
The group said it was unable to respond to specific media questions but was working to appoint a spokesperson and hoped to provide answers "in the coming days".
Police Commissioner warns protest 'no longer tenable'
The Police Commissioner described the anti-mandate protest at Parliament that has caused disruption for eight days as "no longer tenable" and police are upping their response.
Andrew Coster today activated the Major Operations Centre (MOC) at Police National Headquarters, to support the Wellington District operation.
He said the occupation that has taken over Parliament's lawn and blocked roads was unreasonably impacting the city - and the main focus for police now was on reopening the roads.
Coster said police would continue to give protesters the opportunity to remove their illegally parked vehicles, "but time is fast running out for this to happen".
"While police acknowledge the right to lawfully protest, the effect of this protest activity around the Parliament grounds, on roads, residents, schools and businesses, is no longer tenable.
"Having followed international developments, police considers it unwise to escalate tensions, and we have offered alternatives that would enable the roads to be cleared.
"However, protesters have not taken up the offer and nor have they shown any concern for the negative impact of their activities."
Vehicles that were towed would be seized and not immediately released to those who have failed to move them, Coster said.
Asked when any towing might happen, Coster said he would not go into fine detail but said towing would start "shortly".
Police are appealing to tow truck operators to assist in the operation.
"We have made a request of assistance to the Defence Force for towing, towing only.
Moving vehicles from the road was a major priority for police, Coster said.
"Our ability to do that will depend on the towing capability we have."
If people move cars voluntarily, police will show no interest in people's vehicles, Coster said.
"Those who obstruct police efforts to clear the roads can expect to be arrested and charged.
Coster said initial attempts to encourage people to move cars showed promise yesterday but were not successful today. Structures on Parliament's grounds were also problematic.
"We have a good contingent of staff here in Wellington."
It would likely take a few days to clear all the vehicles, Coster said.
"By openly communicating our intention we are demonstrating our ongoing willingness to work in good faith to allow lawful and reasonable protest while protecting the interests of others in the area.
"What's clear from international experience is that there is no easy resolution to protests of this nature and the safety of the public and consequences of escalation are a significant factor in our decision making."
Asked why police did not block roads to prevent protester access to the Parliamentary precinct, Coster said: "There's no basis for us simply to close the roads".
"We can't intervene immediately to prevent a protest when we don't know what the intention is," Coster added.
"Our aim here will not be to escalate."
He invited protesters to take what he called a rational approach.
"If police have to go in and close that thing down many people will be hurt."
Coster said this approach from a protester's point of view was: "We'll move the cars, police will then not feel the need to arrest us."
He said many people at the protest had a lot of mistrust, but he encouraged vehicle owners to act in good faith.
"We're holding out a genuine option here...see if we don't honour what we've said, in terms of once those cars are there, it's not our interest anymore."
Coster said the protest and occupation comprised a "disparate" group with diverse views.
"We have engaged at a range of places there."
The MOC – a joint operation with Wellington District and national staff - would manage and coordinate resourcing, response options, logistics, and health and safety, Coster said.
Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers had been appointed National Controller of the operation, and he would continue to work closely with Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell.
Protesters stung with 180 parking tickets as sit-in enters second week
Earlier on Tuesday, some protesters verbally abused parking wardens ticketing their vehicles on the eighth day of protest. Police were assisting the wardens to ticket the cars - and some protesters were reacting with anger, saying they will refuse to pay them.
Some protesters could be seen removing their number plates and registration to avoid being ticketed. Others have put fake plates on instead.
Asked why they didn't take up the offer to park at Sky Stadium, one protester said it was because their vehicles were part of the community. It was where they slept, prepared food, she said. "If we take these away it takes away what we've built."
Kita, who refused to give her full name, said she had been camping out along Bunny St near Parliament for the past week. She travelled down from Auckland with family, linking up with wider and family and friends. There were about 20 people in their group, from toddlers barely walking to grandparents.
Kita, 21, said she came down to stand up for the rights of her family younger than her, and for any children she might have in the future.
"I don't want any of them getting jabbed without their parents knowing," she said. When pressed that this was not happening, she said she thought it would happen one day and that she didn't trust the Government.
Despite police and parking wardens seeking to move people on and ticket them today, she said they would not be going anywhere. "It's not right, they shouldn't be doing that, because we are here for something important."
The gates to Victoria University of Wellington's Law School building have been locked - with the vehicles still inside them.
It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government will be looking at how protests operate at Parliament, following more than a week of disruption from the anti-vaccination and anti-mandate protesters.
"It makes sense after an experience like this to look at the way Parliament operates … we need to ensure it's a safe environment."
She said the right to protest needed to be balanced with keeping people in the building safe.
"People who work here have faced abuse, and so have the journalists in front of me," she said.
Ardern said she was receiving regular updates from police on the convoy protest outside Parliament.
"Obviously, we want to make sure their focus is on the operation."
Asked how long she would tolerate the protest lasting, Ardern replied: "That's actually not the question for us. Ultimately, of course, we have protests in this place all time, and we accept that as politicians - but what we've seen out here is something quite different."
Asked if police had lost control and protesters had taken over, Ardern replied: "I would not say that. What they are focused on is ensuring the safety of everyone. It's not just those working in this building, but the surrounding areas."
Ardern said police would address concerns about intimidation of people and businesses.
The Prime Minister was asked if Speaker Trevor Mallard told her about his plans to turn on sprinklers and play music at the protests outside Parliament.
Ardern said any communications she had with Mallard were in her capacity as leader of the Labour Party, just as Christopher Luxon would talk with the Speaker in his capacity as National Party leader.
"The actions that the Speaker takes is entirely at his discretion," Ardern said in response to a question from Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden during question time in Parliament.
Ardern said she understood the Speaker was in contact with police about the protest.
Meanwhile, protesters are being treated to a new form of entertainment - Parliament TV.
Just after 3pm, a live account of what's happening inside the building they're parked outside was being streamed through the loudspeakers set up by Mallard.
Over the weekend, Mallard ordered music and Covid-19 ads blasted from the speakers to try and make life "uncomfortable" for those in the camp.
This latest move hasn't been welcomed by the crowd, with protesters yelling and cheering as Megan Woods addressed the house.
Protesters also now have several loudspeakers of their own going, trying to drown out the sound of Parliament being played live out over the grounds.
A speaker has now taken the microphone and asked the crowd if they had voted for Labour, National, the Green or Māori parties at the last election.
"You guys are all voters, and they are standing in there sneering at you like you're scum," he told the crowd.
He said the Prime Minister had lied by promising New Zealanders the Covid vaccine would not be mandatory.
"We're not going away until the mandates end, and they need to know that," he yelled.
'We just couldn't keep it open any longer'
The Lambton bus interchange, railway station toilets, and subway remain closed due to the protest.
Greater Wellington Regional Council chairman Daran Ponter said the toilets were vandalised by the protesters who also took all the toilet paper.
"They degraded the facility, we just couldn't keep it open any longer. They had also damaged it."
Ponter understood the decision to close the bus interchange was an inconvenience to commuters.
"But protesters were just haphazardly walking all over the interchange seemingly oblivious to 40 tonne buses and we could just see that if we remained with that situation, something unfortunate was going to happen."
Bus drivers themselves had also faced "feral behaviour" including one being spat on by protesters, Ponter said.
"We would like to move back to the bus interchange, as that's the purpose for which it was built, as soon as we can, but that is all dependant on police being able to move the protesters on, their cars in particular", he said.
"The protesters have had their say, they've made their point, and for the sake of Wellington and Wellington businesses, we would prefer that they move on."
Pre-protest letter emerges
A letter has emerged that some Thorndon residents received before the protest started.
It's from the "Wellington Food Coordination Group" and advises residents that people and volunteers will be coming and going from 143 Grant Rd over the course of the week.
This is the location where protesters have subsequently set up a temporary kitchen and food preparation area at an auto mechanic's garage.
The letter said there may be a requirement for some trailers to be offloading fridges, tables, and trolleys, but this was not expected to take a long amount of time.
"We do not want to disturb your parking areas or create uncomfortable noise and business, so please do let us know at any stage if it is causing disruption to your normal daily life."
The letter is dated Sunday February 6.
Regional Public Health medical officer of health Dr Stephen Palmer said the orginsation has been working with the city council, which is monitoring the situation.
"We have not been notified of any illness resulting from unsanitary conditions at the protest site."
Woman dragged from protest naked by her hair says she felt 'safe'
In a speech to the waiting crowd on Tuesday, the woman who made headlines for being dragged from the protest naked by police says officers were "very kind" to her.
She said while she "definitely didn't want to be naked" she felt safe.
"My sister Sharon was meditating beside me. Breathing was what got me through. I did have a panic attack when I saw the cubicle I was going to, but a nice officer helped calm me down."
"They were very kind to me in custody considering how cheeky I was."
The woman went viral for her arrest, during which she was dragged by her hair by police.
When asked why she was naked, she said, "In my experience at other occupation and seeing wahine take their clothes off, it worked."
"We greased up with coconut oil," she laughed, adding that before her arrest she had been "throwing" her naked body at them to make them back off.
"I would do a bit of twerking."
The crowd on Parliament's lawn continues to grow under the Wellington sun, as the Covid-19 anti-mandate protest enters its second week.
Those camped on the front lawn of Parliament woke up to calm and still conditions on day eight of their sit-in, and have been joined by hundreds more throughout the morning.
They appear to have largely ignored a police offer of free parking on Monday night, which invited those unlawfully parked to move their vehicles to Sky Stadium.
On Tuesday, only a handful of vehicles from the protest had been shifted to the stadium. Regardless of the low uptake, the carpark will be kept open to protesters for at least a few more days.
Meanwhile, Wellington City Council has issued about 180 parking tickets in the area of the protest over the past week.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said just one ticket has been paid.
Vehicles parked on the footpath were slapped with a $40 fine and those parked on broken yellow lines were issued with a $60 fine.
Tickets were also issued on the grounds of "parking inconsiderately", MacLean said.
Parking wardens issued the tickets with police at their side.
"Obviously we are concerned about the safety of our staff," MacLean said.
While no further tickets have been issued this week, the council is keeping its options open, MacLean said.
Drop in Covid-19 cases, NZ set to move into next phase of response
on the eve of the country moving into the next phase of its response.
It comes after consecutive record days that have seen case numbers surge. The high numbers - and resulting queues at testing stations - have led to a change in the rules, with health bosses saying only get tested under specific circumstances.
Forty people with Covid-19 are in hospitals at Whangārei, North Shore, Middlemore, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, the Ministry of Health said in its 1pm update.
None are in intensive care. The average age of those hospitalised in 59.
New Zealand enters the next stage of the planned three-phase Omicron response tonight, after a record 981 new community cases were recorded yesterday.
Calmer atmosphere as occupation enters second week
As the occupation enters its second week, the atmosphere at the camp resembles more of a farmer's market than the high tensions seen last week. Rubbish is continuing to pile up.
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was trying to get a truck in every day to remove rubbish from the streets, even though it wasn't in official council rubbish bags.
"It's all about the need to keep the city from turning into a rubbish tip", he said
There seem to be far fewer graphic signs; most of them say some variation of "End the Mandates" or "Freedom for New Zealand" rather than some of the aggressive and threatening messaging seen earlier on.
One protester spoke passionately about a friend who he believed had died from the vaccine, while another said she was double vaccinated, but wanted to speak out to discredit reports made by police of unsanitary conditions at camp.
She implored the people of Wellington to come to support the protest movement.
Another speaker warned protesters there were "wolves in sheep's clothing" among the group and people trying to infiltrate the movement.
"Don't trust everyone who comes up here and speaks, even me," he said.
Victoria University's Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford said they had to close the campus near Parliament because so many people were parked in the car parks and camping on the lawn.
The university had locked down the business school and law faculty and had advised 1500 summer students to stay home with classes moved online.
On top of the students, there were another 250 to 300 staff who had also been impacted.
Speaking to RNZ, Guilford said police had a trespass notice to use if and when they thought it was appropriate.
"We are determined not to act in isolation of the police for obvious reasons."
He said there was "a lot of confusion on the ground" because the law building was called the Old Government Building so people were struggling to differentiate the university from the government.
The main bus terminal was also closed due to the protest and heading into the first trimester it would be much more challenging as they would be managing 22,000 students.
Students and staff had been physically and verbally abused by some people in the crowd.
"That sense of intimidation is especially felt by our female students and staff and as a result, we've advised them to stay away."
He said they were just having to "wait it out" and he supported the police's very careful approach to this.
"I don't think they are going anywhere until such time until some of their demands are met or they are physically removed."
The university had also beefed up its security.y,