After nearly three months of Covid-19 distancing restrictions, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have finally been able to come out and play - or watch - a game like no other.

Eden Park saw the biggest Super Rugby crowd for a Blues home game since 2005, with 43,000 fans packing the stadium.

For the first time, fans saw the Blues' newest star Beauden Barrett take on his old team the Hurricanes from fullback in the first round of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Aucklanders celebrated the Blues' 30-20 win, filling Kingsland's bars after the match.

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Business owners were happy to see rugby fans buying drinks and kai before and after the match.

Steve Gillett, owner of The Kingslander, said he was excited to see locals and rugby fans out and about again.

"It's been a massive hiatus between March and now, and a long time between drinks after Covid-19 shut us down for more than eight weeks," Gillett said.

"This is busier than usual, definitely. It's unprecedented to have a Blues game that's a sell-out but we're just thrilled to have supporters from both sides coming here to The Kingslander."

New Zealand's move to alert level 1 last Monday means restrictions on mass gatherings have been lifted, and sporting events and other venues can again host crowds.

Black Lives Matter march

The Eden Park match wasn't the only event drawing big crowds at the weekend.

Thousands of Kiwis marched at Black Lives Matter rallies in Auckland and Wellington yesterday afternoon.

The Auckland march, which started at Aotea Square, headed down Queen St and ended at the United States consulate, where protesters took a knee and observed a minute's silence for George Floyd.

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Protesters wait for the start of the Black Lives Matter rally in Aotea Square in Auckland. Photo / RNZ
Protesters wait for the start of the Black Lives Matter rally in Aotea Square in Auckland. Photo / RNZ

Members of the Ethiopian and Somalian communities addressed the crowd about the Black Lives Matter movement, along with social justice campaigner Julia Whaipooti, who talked about the use of armed police in predominantly Māori and Pasifika areas.

"For many of us, this is not a new moment in time, not a hashtag on Instagram."

Whaipooti acknowledged police brutality in the US and likened it to what happens here.

"We have to acknowledge and look at what are the oppressive natures of power that we are seeing in our own whenua," she said.

"We cannot shine a light over there and send aroha and close a blind eye to what is happening here on our whenua as well."

Commercial Bay

The new Commercial Bay mall in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Alex Burton
The new Commercial Bay mall in the Auckland CBD. Photo / Alex Burton

Meanwhile, the central city was full of shoppers visiting the new Commercial Bay development, described by one shopper as adding a sparkle and a reason to return to the CBD.

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More than 200,000 people have visited the downtown shopping centre in just four days.

Saturday saw the highest number of shoppers through the centre - 64,000 - up from the 52,000 visitors on Friday and 46,000 on opening day. About 47,000 people were expected to visit Commercial Bay yesterday.

Scott Pritchard, chief executive of the property developer and owner Precinct Properties, said the response to the centre had been unbelievable.

While he could not reveal how much had been spent at Commercial Bay in the past four days, he said it had been much higher than expected - and up on original forecasts of an earlier pre-Covid opening.

The $1 billion commercial skyscraper and mall on the waterfront has 120 local and new international names spread over 18,000sq m, plus a mix of internationally acclaimed restaurants and a 650-seat dining hall called Harbour Eats.