National Party leader Todd Muller says the Government is sending confusing messages about the coming of alert level 1, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, taking different positions.

Muller said the lack of social distancing in the Black Lives Matter protests yesterday in New Zealand could have been the result of the confusing messages the Government had given.

But National MPs are also taking a variety of stands, with many going further than him and saying New Zealand should be in level 1 now.

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Speaking at Parliament to reporters, Muller said there was "so much confusion because the Deputy Prime Minister is telling you 'let's return back to normal'.

"I can totally understand [the protesters] interpreting that as sending a signal to come together to protest on an issue that they feel very passionately about."

He said Peters was taking an overtly different position to Ardern.

Ardern has said that in view of New Zealand having had 10 straight days with no new cases, she would recommend to the Cabinet today that it decide on June 8 whether to move to alert level 1, instead of waiting until June 22.

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But Peters is publicly agitating for a fast return to alert level 1, given the lack of compliance with the rules on the protests.

Muller himself would not say when New Zealand should come out of alert level 2.

"Ultimately, that is the advice that has to be discerned by the Cabinet," he said.

"They are looking at the health perspective, which is, of course, critical but also the social and economic perspectives which are increasingly critical – thirty seven and a half thousand jobs lost in a month.


"They have to distil that and reach a considered view. That's why I am asking for that Cabinet paper to be shared because the Government clearly can't get on the same page."

Covid-19 spokeswoman Amy Adams. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Covid-19 spokeswoman Amy Adams. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Asked if he would like to move to alert level 1 this week, Muller said: "Again, I am not the Prime Minister. I don't get to see the advice which balances those competing objectives."

However, his own MPs were more specific, with Amy Adams, Paula Bennett and Dan Bidois saying New Zealand should be at alert level 1.

Adams, National's new Covid-19 spokeswoman, said there was "very strong evidence" that New Zealand should be at level 1 now, and that the Government should consider it today, rather than waiting until next week.

"It's certainly better than leaving it another two weeks, but I still think they've been very low and slow and they owe the public the courtesy of explaining exactly why we remain in level 2, why they think that is necessary and how that is being enforced."

Former deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Former deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"If we are not going to move from today, then we need to know exactly why that is," Adams said.


"My view is there is very strong evidence that we should be at level 1 now, but given we are at level 2 I think the Government has to be very clear about how those rules are enforced, why businesses are being put to quite a lot of compliance and effort to maintain that when large-scale gatherings like that are allowed to go ahead seemingly with impunity."

Bennett, the former deputy leader, said: "I think we should be at level one or zero."

She said New Zealanders should be able to protest but they needed consistent rules.
"It is totally ridiculous we are still having such restrictions when people are not abiding by them."

Northcote MP Dan Bidois. Photo / Mark Tantrum
Northcote MP Dan Bidois. Photo / Mark Tantrum

Bidois, the Northcote MP, said National wanted New Zealand to go to alert level 1.

"It doesn't make sense to stay at alert level 2 if there are so many breaches that are happening right throughout our community.

"That's what our leader, Todd Muller, has said. We want to go to level 1 and I think that should happen."


National's Police spokesman, Brett Hudson, said it was wrong that the protest went ahead and "regrettable" that such large groups would gather ignoring social distancing.

Police spokesman Brett Hudson. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police spokesman Brett Hudson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"The cause of the protest is we all stand alongside and behind people that decry racism and those sorts of goings on, but we are still, we're told, in level 2 so we are expected to social distance and those people chose not to."

He said abiding by the rules were a large part of why New Zealand's response had been so effective. However, it was up to Police to decide how they should have handled the protest.

"If you have rules around our alert levels, of course there should be consequences for those that choose to breach them. But it is for the Police, and police discretion as to exactly what actions they take."