Protesters concerned at the proposed Three Waters reform gathered outside Tauranga City Council chambers this morning.
Despite the city's Covid-19 alert level 2 status, which restricts gatherings and encourages social distancing and mask use, about 70 protesters crowded around the council's Willow St entrance ahead of a council meeting.
The protest was organised by the Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance, objecting to the council's role in the Government's Three Waters reform, which would shift control of New Zealand's fresh, storm and wastewater infrastructure to four yet-to-be-set-up entities.
A Bay of Plenty Times reporter at the protest said most were wearing masks, however several men were not. One abused reporters with offensive language, demanding they do their job.
Tauranga Ratepayers' Alliance spokesman Michael O'Neill said everyone was asked to wear a mask and "the expectation is that everyone is vaccinated".
"We are conscious of the need for Covid safety requirements to be followed but at the same time, people want to be here. We don't feel we have been heard.
"We've got very little options other than this."
O'Neill said he hoped the protest would result in the Government pulling the reform.
"We saw what happened in Auckland with the cycleway bridge. So the more people that get up and let the Government know we are not happy, the better."
A common theme among protesters was concern they would no longer have control of the local water assets. Many protesters did not have faith in the city's commissioners.
Protester Ross Steel said he was furious with the proposed reform.
"I think it's just important that ratepayers have a voice and send a clear message to central Government that we do not want assets stolen by a mere bribe."
Earlier this year, the Government confirmed a $2.5 billion financial package for councils to help aid the transition of the proposed move.
Around 10 of the protesters moved up to the socially distanced public gallery.
The meeting hadn't yet started but there had already been jeers from the public gallery.
As commissioner Stephen Selwood was connected to the meeting virtually, from his Auckland home, a member of the public called out "shouldn't be here anyway".
Earlier, protester Lynne Moore said there were "a lot of unhappy people". Moore said most protesters had had both vaccinations and were wearing masks.
"I don't think that's irresponsible."
Today's protest comes on the heels of gathering events such as an anti-lockdown protest organised by Brian Tamaki in Auckland at the weekend.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff labelled Tamaki an "idiot" for his actions.
Yesterday, the Government confirmed Covid's Delta variant had spread to the Waikato with a case in Raglan and the other in Hamilton East. The development has shunted the city and other parts of the region into level 3 restrictions again.
Last week, Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council each sent a letter to the Government not opting out of the proposed reform - as other councils in New Zealand have done. However, each council outlined several concerns with the proposal.
Tauranga commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said at the time a lack of information and communication had become significant factors regarding the proposal. Often, people were getting concerned about things that were not necessarily the case.
"That's the biggest thing; the community by and large just do not understand what is proposed. That's because the Government hasn't explained it well."