Mining bid draws 40,000 people to the street in anger, reports Matt Nippert.

Up to 40,000 protesters voiced their anger at Government plans to mine protected land in the biggest demonstration in New Zealand for the past 20 years.

Central Auckland was brought to a standstill as a coalition of politicians, celebrities, environmentalists and the public demanded National halt proposals to mine Department of Conservation areas.

The march, which began near the waterfront at 11am, stretched for 1.3km along Queen St with protesters coming from as far as Coromandel and Wellington.

Police were caught unprepared by the scale of the demonstration and rolling roadblocks along Queen St were cancelled, as the entire street became a no-vehicle zone for 90 minutes.

Addressing the crowd afterwards in Myers Park, Outrageous Fortune star Robyn Malcolm said: "This is our backyard and the Government is being swayed by wealthy mining companies."

Actor Lucy Lawless said the size and mood of the march brought back memories of mass demonstrations of 25 years ago.

"This reminds me of the late 80s, after the Rainbow Warrior bombing, back when there was class consciousness."

She was particularly concerned about the effects of coal-mining: "To take carbon out of the ground and burn it, when we know about climate change, is immoral."

Actress Madeline Sami was blunt in her criticism of the mining proposal: "It's bulls--t, eh? It's ridiculous."

Organisers estimated there were more than 40,000 protesters, but police said the figure was closer to 20,000.

Labour Leader Phil Goff, accompanied by eight caucus members, said the size of the protest indicated the strength of public feeling on the issue: "They don't want pristine areas desecrated by international mining companies," he said.

Keith Locke was one of five Green MPs present.

Locke, a veteran of many Auckland protests, said the turnout was comparable to those at the peak of the anti-genetic engineering movement a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Roxanne, a graphic designer who refused to give her last name, carried a placard featuring John Key with a Hitler-esque moustache and a single word in gothic script: "Mein!"

And mum Fiona Copland said it was her first protest march.

She attended because of the interest shown by her daughter Alex, 12, who said of conservation land: "What's the point of having it so protected if they can just unprotect it?"

Police credited march organisers for a well-behaved crowd. Only one arrest was made.

The mining proposal is a key plank in government policy to catch up with Australia economically.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee told TV3 news he was aware the mining proposal was unpopular.

"We know the numbers are roughly 50:50 on this, so we weren't surprised by the turnout," he said.

Marching on
* September 2001: 10,000 march against Genetic Engineering, resulting in a moratorium.
* March 2003: 5000 protest against the Iraq War.
* October 2003: 9000 march against end of GE Moratorium, ending it.
* March 2005: 10,000 fight civil unions which remain legal.
* November 2007: 2000 protest the Electoral Finance Act which is repealed after the election.
* May 2009: 7000 failed in a call for Maori seats on Supercity council.
* November 2009: 4000 call for repeal of anti-smacking legislation but to no avail.
* May 2010: Up to 40,000 march opposing mining on conservation land.