Police and politicians yesterday defended tactics used to clear the 23-day occupation of Parliament grounds as the scale of the wreckage became evident.
The standoff ended with fire, riots, and injuries to police and protesters on Wednesday and turned much of the surrounding area into a crime scene.
Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said 100 people were arrested in all — 11 yesterday — on charges including arson, grievous bodily harm, inciting violence, theft, assault, and trespass and obstruction.
Forty police officers were hurt, with eight admitted to hospital for injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to bone fractures and head injuries. They have all since been released.
By the time police moved in, Chambers said, people intent on violence had largely taken over from genuine protesters. "Police staff were confronted with a very violent situation. The force used was proportionate, but we will certainly look at any evidence that suggests otherwise.
"The hard work continues. The investigation phase will last for as long as it needs to to hold people accountable."
He said police would keep a close eye around Wellington "for as long as needed".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited the site in front of Parliament and said the former encampment resembled a "rubbish dump". "What we saw was very confronting for us as a country — protest and violence we are not used to here.'' She insisted she stood by her decision to not engage with protesters. On the police's use of force when clearing the occupation, Ardern said she was confident in the decisions they made and that they would be reviewing their actions.
She had watched some of the violent clashes from a Beehive window — including protesters setting fire to a playground. "It was a form of protest I did not recognise. Everyone has sacrificed something in the past two years but it has not been for nothing. It's been for each other."
Ardern said to the police, fire and security staff: "To each of you, we say thank you. You were there throughout these events at great risk to yourselves. Many of you were abused, some were injured. But you put your personal safety aside ... to look after others ... we are very grateful. To Wellingtonians, I am sorry for what you have had to endure, but I thank you for your resilience. I hope your sense of safety and confidence has been restored."
All parties in the House of Representatives recognised the restoration of Parliament's grounds and the service of police, firefighters, paramedics and Māori wardens.
Ardern said 50 firefighters worked with Wellington Free Ambulance staff, who treated injured people.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon said there was "real animus in the atmosphere".
Marama Davidson, Green Party co-leader, said it took courage for police to maintain a harm minimisation approach as long as possible.
She said the occupation drew upon some unhinged and misanthropic tropes and right-wing agitators who spun disinformation. "They also need to be accountable."
She said seeing the conflict on Wednesday shocked her.
Act leader David Seymour said police faced extreme and reckless violence but handled the occupation with professionalism and courage.
Seymour said the protest had a disturbing ethos, but it was important to ask why so many people were upset about the pandemic response.
Although disinformation was a problem, it was not good enough to just blame that for everything in the occupation, Seymour added.
Te Paati Māori supported the motion honouring emergency services for their actions at the protest, and thanked Māori wardens.
Meanwhile, the firefighters' union voiced concern about staff and equipment used in Wednesday's police operation.
"Hoses were commandeered by police to be used in and around the Parliament grounds," the Professional Firefighters Union said.
"These were unprecedented events where the hostility and danger to health and safety of the police, fire and ambulance responders was very real and imminent."
The union wanted an independent inquiry to thoroughly determine all the circumstances that resulted in fire hoses being used by police and then being turned on the police.
"We condemn the untenable position professional career firefighters were in yesterday. We believe that was due in part to the absence of appropriate inter-agency procedures."
Protest spokesman Leighton Baker last night told Newstalk ZB he was arrested for obstructing police.
He claimed at one point his eyes were full of pepper spray and he was hit on the head with something. He spent the night in custody and was not planning any other protests.
Meanwhile, an encampment at Auckland Domain dispersed, and people at a protest in Picton departed yesterday, though a camp emerged on Wellington's south coast.
Protest attendee Papa Hone said some adults and children who'd been staying at the camp now had nowhere to sleep.
He said many confused people were ringing him for help after vehicles were impounded and possessions destroyed in yesterday's police operation to reclaim Parliament grounds.
Hone said a few had been picked up and taken to Shelly Bay.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said protesters evicted from Parliament would not be welcome at Shelly Bay.
The Wellington City Council yesterday morning said it was aware of suggestions protesters evicted from the Parliament grounds had parked on the Miramar Peninsula and South Coast, including the Red Rocks Reserve car park in Owhiro Bay.
Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow told the Herald she expected the final bill to fix damage caused by the protest will be significant.
Crews began cleaning up parts of the site yesterday, navigating bio-hazards, insanitary substances, chemicals, flammable canisters, and damaged electrical connections.