Wellington CBD came to a standstill this morning as thousands of protesters descended on Parliament in a challenge to Covid restrictions.
Although some protesters breached the first set of gates to Parliament and others hurled abuse and tennis balls at reporters, the protest was described as "peaceful".
Addressing media this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the crowds in the demonstrations did not represent the majority of New Zealanders.
Organised by the Freedoms and Rights Coalition, the group marched to Parliament to present its demands, which included an end to Covid restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Protest organisers said they wanted New Zealand to "learn to live with the virus", calling for Auckland's borders to be opened, the whole country to move to alert level 1 and an end to "no jab, no job" vaccine mandates.
Anti-lockdown protesters also blocked State Highway 1 at Auckland's northern border, causing delays for motorists.
Those in the crowds in Wellington include young and old, and a diverse mix of ethnicities. Protest signs range from anti-vaccine to "Trump 2020", alongside tino rangatiratanga and United Tribes flags.
Several hundred gathered at Civic Square from 10am, eventually swelling to a crowd of thousands that marched on down Lambton Quay towards Parliament, chanting "Freedom now!"
Some of the crowd later breached the first set of gates onto the forecourt, but were still separated by another barrier from Parliament buildings.
Also joined by around 100 motorbikes, the crowds were diverse in age and ethnicity. As in Wellington, protest signs ranged from anti-vaccine to "Trump 2020", alongside tino rangatiratanga and United Tribes flags.
Rewi Hare of Destiny Church addressed the crowd, saying people have gathered from "top of the North Island to the bottom of the South".
He praised the "brave" Brian Tamaki for "standing up to the Government", to loud cheers.
Protesters gathering at Parliament earlier today included a group of about 30 who travelled down from Whakatāne.
Among them were teachers and even a principal, all opposed to the vaccine mandate of education staff which requires a first dose by November 15.
One of the protesters, a special needs teacher of over 20 years' experience, said she is prepared to leave her job rather than be vaccinated – along with many others.
She said about 2000 people have travelled from Whakatāne and the wider region for today's protest.
The woman, who refused to give her name, said she was concerned about Covid-19 but didn't trust the vaccine nor the Government.
Act Party leader David Seymour said the Government had antagonised people such as some of the protesters outside by issuing vaccine mandates.
Seymour said he hoped as many people as possible got vaccinated but people should still be given choices.
"I don't fear those people. I fear for them," Seymour said when asked about the crowds outside.
Earlier this morning Speaker Trevor Mallard said the security at Parliament had never been so high.
Main entrances had all been locked down and some protesters, and a contingent of police had set up on the grounds before the protest arrived.
People who work in Parliament were also warned to stay alert and report any suspicious behaviour.
The protest caused disruption on the road around Lambton Quay, affecting 11 bus routes.