Restore Passenger Rail protesters say they will continue to glue themselves to motorways and disrupt Wellingtonians for as long as possible.
The group says it’s in the name of climate change and they will not stop until the Government makes a reasonable move on its demands.
However, they appear to have completely alienated themselves from the halls of power.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has called them idiotic and Transport Minister Michael Wood said they’re the most ineffective lobby group he has ever encountered.
Talking to Georgina Campbell on On the Tiles - Local Edition, the Herald’s politics podcast, Restore Passenger Rail spokesman James Cockle said they were taking extreme action to match the extreme situation of climate change.
The group want an affordable passenger rail service from Whangārei down to Wellington, including New Plymouth, Rotorua, Tauranga and Gisborne, and from Picton across to Greymouth and down to Invercargill.
They also want free fares on all public transport.
Asked whether the group had crunched the numbers on how much of New Zealand’s emissions would be reduced by restoring passenger rail, Cockle said they had not because it was a “sliding scale”.
One man disrupted by the protesters was on the way to see his daughter, who was receiving chemotherapy.
“He did manage to get through. But I’d say he’s trying to protect his daughter, I’m trying to protect my daughter as well,” Cockle said.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation and we hate doing it but it’s what must be done in order to bring this Government to us, to the people.
“We’ll keep going as long as we possibly can.”
The Government has shown no interest in engaging with the group after they restarted their protests last month, including Wood.
“This is the least relevant and least effective lobby group I’ve ever encountered,” he told the podcast.
Wood did invite members of the group for a meeting in his office last year after they abseiled at the entrance of the Mt Victoria tunnel and formed a human chain across the Transmission Gully motorway.
“I wanted to see if they had reasonable and useful things to contribute to the debate,” Wood said.
“They had basically nothing to contribute to the debate.”
Wood said the group made one long complaint with no real detail or focus.
Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau offered the group a meeting more recently.
She later took that offer off the table when it became clear nothing was going to change their mind.
Whanau admitted the offer put her offside with Wellingtonians.
“I think a lot of the public were kind of like, ‘what are you doing?’ And there was this fear that because of my Green background that perhaps I was being too kind to them.
“And look, I want to apologise to Wellington if that gesture came across that way, but that certainly wasn’t the case. It was more about me drilling down to figure out how I could get them to stop.”
Listen to the full episode for more about Whanau’s deep conflict in criticising climate activists and whether Wood thinks people should lose their jobs over KiwiRail’s Wellington train fiasco.