Police are this morning ramping up patrols in central Wellington, near where hundreds of people enter their seventh day of protest at Parliament, having survived the remnants of Cyclone Dovi and the music of Celine Dion, Barry Manilow and James Blunt.
But while police sought to reassure commuters in the capital, they say the grounds of Parliament are no place for children, as they warned of emerging sanitation issues - and revealed some protesters were armed with baseball bats.
In an update just after 8pm on Sunday, Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said police would have a highly visible presence in and around Parliament's grounds today to provide reassurance for those in the city.
"We will have foot patrols in around the area of the railway station, up Molesworth St, and streets adjoining the protest activity," he said.
Parnell encouraged commuters to plan for continued traffic disruption.
He also warned "sanitation issues" had emerged with fears of faecal contamination and unhygienic portaloos.
Parnell also revealed some of the protesters were armed with baseball bats and similar items. "We're aware of the presence of some weapons on site. Certainly not firearms, no evidence of that."
He said the situation was complex but police morale was high. Indeed, some officers even remarked on some of the quirkier aspects of the protest, Parnell said.
"They endured a heck of a night there last night, but they still remained upbeat."
He described the occupation, which had peaked at 3000, as "unprecedented territory".
He urged leaders to work with police and clear the roads. "We are offering to facilitate an alternative location for the vehicles and campervans, currently blocking streets around Parliament to be based, while they continue a demonstration at Parliament."
Parnell said police were still concerned about the presence of children at the protest given the risk around sanitation and Covid.
Parnell implored parents and caregivers to think about the wellbeing of younger people.
"Quite frankly this is no place for children."
The possible involvement of far-right groups was concerning, and the terror attacks of March 2019 were "front of mind", he told media.
Parnell said police spoke to "key leaders" and organisers. "To date that hasn't been entirely successful."
There had been no further arrests on Sunday - there were about 300-500 people in tents and overall crowd size peaked at around 3000. Police had asked protest organisers and factions to move vehicles.
Earlier on Sunday, the superintendent said it was important to reach a stage where members of the public could get to work and go about their business.
"Our goal is to get that back to a state of lawful protest."
Parnell was asked why people were still being allowed to come and go.
He said it was clear from overseas experiences that some tactics deployed abroad against similar protests had been unsuccessful.
"That nucleus of 300-500 people, they've sat through an extreme weather event," Parnell added. He said he did not intend for the protest to last for weeks.
On Speaker Trevor Mallard's decision to turn music and sprinklers on, Parnell said that was not a police decision.
"Look, it is what it is. It happened."
He said a secure place had been set aside for any vehicles that might be towed, with the aim of freeing up public roads.
Using the Defence Force to move vehicles had not been ruled out, but Parnell said this was ideally something to be avoided.
Portaloos appeared to be under pressure and children were playing in unhygienic conditions, with possible faecal contamination on the ground, he said.
Some of the people arrested last week had been given bail but returned to the grounds, Parnell said.
Some of the people arrested were expected to appear in court today.
Asked why he was still waiting on negotiations after six days, he said: "We've never sat on laurels. We've been working ... around the clock to engage with parties."
Some protesters had made unacceptable threats to the public, he said.
Police were working with Wellington City Council on issues around possible bylaw breaches.
"Removing the portaloos or emptying the portaloos, we've explored that at great length."
Parnell said protest sympathisers who offered food and accommodation were supporting an unlawful occupation.
He rejected suggestions the convoy protest took police off-guard.
But he added: "This is unprecedented territory in terms of an unlawful occupation and protest at Parliament."
Parnell said no threats had been made which could be deemed as national security threats.
But he said the possible involvement of far-right groups was concerning, and the terror attacks of March 2019 were "front of mind".
Mud, hay bales and Celine Dion
Earlier on Sunday, the crowd of protesters swelled again, despite howling southerly winds and rain as Cyclone Dovi buffeted the Wellington region.
There were small numbers earlier in the morning, and the protesters had to fix some of the tents which were hit by the gales, but a truckload of hay arrived and was spread out to carpet Parliament's lawn.
As in recent days, police continued to stand and monitor the protest without making attempts to enter the protest area or clear the grounds.
It is now more than 24 hours since the Speaker turned on his speakers and the protest crowd booed every single time his recorded trespass warning aired.
His tactics copped criticism from Act leader David Seymour, who said the Speaker needed to grow up.
"All MPs have chosen to ignore these protesters, except for Mallard who has waved a red rag to them.
"Trevor Mallard needs to leave the response to police. It's not for politicians to interfere with silly pranks.
"It's like he thinks he's Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and few silly pranks will scare the trespassers away. What's next? Placing buckets of water on doors left ajar?"
Seymour also took a swipe at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been quiet since Thursday.
"The Beehive is under siege, and where is our Prime Minister? Jacinda has been MIA for the past few days created a vacuum for Trevor. Where is the Prime Minister and why isn't she showing leadership?"
Mallard has not yet commented on whether police approved of his decisions to use the speakers or set off Parliament's sprinklers on Thursday night.
However, Cyclone Dovi has had no more success in shifting them than the Speaker: as the worst of the weather passed, there was still a sizable and enthusiastic crowd yesterday.
Just before 4pm, protesters set up big black marquees along where the police line was on Wednesday.
They also set up a speaker and played anti-vax statements.
The protesters also trolled trolling Mallard by playing Baby Shark on their own speaker.
Some spotted him through the window and waved cheerily.
Mallard's playlist includes James Blunt's You're Beautiful.
Earlier on Sunday morning, James Blunt took to Twitter to Offer his songs for the playlist.
An instrumental version of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On is also on the repeat loop - played on a recorder.
Earlier on Sunday, protesters were singing along and dancing to Mallard's early morning picks of Baby Shark and Frozen's Let It Go.
By 11am, the speakers were blasting You're Beautiful, the Blunt hit song that also regularly features in "world's worst songs" playlists.
Vehicles are still blocking Molesworth St, and Parliament's lawn is a mess of mud and hay.
Grant Robertson talks of protest's toll on MPs' families
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said that the protests at Parliament had taken a toll on MPs' families.
"Every New Zealander has a right to peaceful protest," Robertson told TVNZ's Q+A. "The problem is they have gone well beyond that.
"I do find the rhetoric of these protests highly disturbing. There was chalk writing on the forecourt of Parliament that [said] 'hang politicians'. Our families see that.
"This is a continuation of the harassment the Prime Minister sees, of the kinds of … bullying that is associated with these people.
"There is a sad element to it, there is a conspiracy theory element that people who have been sucked in by."
Asked whether he would like police to take firmer action, he said: "I am on the record as the MP here as having urged the police to take action. They have taken action, but the exact way they do that is their decision."
Sodden Parliament protesters buffeted by Cyclone Dovi's gales and rain
Parliament's front lawn had already turned into a swamp yesterday as protesters flooding from across the country were greeted with rain.
Former National MP Matt King was one of them, giving a rousing speech while also announcing he'd officially resigned from the party.
"I would have had to preach their position ... I didn't want to do that," he told the Herald, saying he'd joined the protest to be among "real people" while urging them to remain peaceful and non-violent.
On Saturday, the collective of vastly different causes had looked increasingly settled in for their illegal occupation with well-stocked kitchens, a medical centre and even makeshift daycare set up.
Despite their growing presence police showed no signs of moving them on, with no arrests on Saturday and no attempts made to move hundreds of vehicles illegally blocking surrounding streets.
By Saturday evening protester numbers had swelled to several thousand, with hundreds of tents and gazebos remaining across the lawn - in defiance of Parliament rules and trespass notices issued earlier in the week.
They were in for a turbid night though, with MetService forecasting heavy rain.
After a violent Thursday that saw 122 people arrested, there were no arrests on Saturday, and just one on Friday evening for breach of bail, as police kept their distance and the crown remained relatively peaceful.
One person was carried out by police on a stretcher and taken to Wellington Hospital in a moderate condition by ambulance yesterday.
This came after another protester on Friday evening fell ill, with their ambulance treatment severely hindered due to vehicles blocking streets around Parliament.
Saturday morning saw the return of protesters and key organisers from the group Freedom and Rights Coalition, backed by Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church, who had left earlier in the week after a splintering with more extremist groups present, including those on the far-right.
A vast array of speakers took to the podium, including from the Freedom and Rights Coalition, many of whom arrived on motorcycles, Voices for Freedom and Ted Johnston, co-leader of the New Conservative political party.
Speeches included a mixture of anti-mandate, anti-vaccine, conspiracy theory and anti-authority rhetoric, amid singalongs that had many dancing in the rain.
The crowd included young and old and from all corners of the country. Those spoken to by the Herald urged the line the protest was about vaccine mandates, and sought to distance the majority from the presence of far-right and white supremacist groups.
There have been no moves yet to shift hundreds of vehicles blocking streets and footpaths around Parliament, all continuing to frustrate Wellington city residents and businesses with a large chunk of the CBD shut off.
A police spokeswoman told the Herald they still had not figured out how to do so, after reports tow-truck drivers were too intimidated to do the work themselves.
The Herald understands the NZ Army is being looked into as an option.
There have also been increasing reports of intimidating and anti-social behaviour, with stores across the CBD bolstering security and changing opening hours.
The Thorndon Farmers' Market was called off on Saturday morning and New World Thorndon also altered its hours due to safety concerns.
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said it was concerning to see the protesters become more entrenched, and threatening behaviour spread across the central city.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson earlier condemned protesters at Parliament, saying they are driven by "wild, false, dangerous conspiracy theories".
Robertson, who has protested on the steps of Parliament himself, says he supports the right to protest - but those outside Parliament have lost that right due to their actions.
"When they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city they lose that right. They have been trespassed, they need to leave."
He added that threats of violence are unacceptable, and said he understands why police must move the protesters on.
"Looking down on a protest that wants to hang me as a politician, a sign that compares the Prime Minister to the March 15th terrorist, calls for arrest and execution of me and other leaders you might understand why I believe the police need to move them on."
Convoy protests in Ottawa, Canada - the genesis for these protests - have crippled the city for a fortnight and disrupted trade with the United States. Similar protests are also taking place in Canberra and inspiring other movements worldwide.
The message from those assembled in Wellington on Saturday was clear: they are not going anywhere any time soon, and once the storm had passed the next move was on the police, and perhaps the Speaker.