National’s transport spokesman Simeon Brown has blasted Michael Wood for meeting with Restore Passenger Rail protesters, calling it “foolish” and “naïve”.
In response to what the protest group saw as a failed meeting with the Transport Minister, they sprayed five MP offices across the country with fake blood.
Restore Passenger Rail protesters targeted offices in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington after their meeting with Wood last week did not go to plan.
Brown said today the protest was “illegal and unacceptable and needs to be stopped before it spreads”.
“Wood was foolish or naïve to give these activists the time of day when he met with them in his office for a cup of tea and some scones earlier this month.
”As we’ve seen with Stop Oil protesters continually blocking motorways in the UK, nothing except the force of the law will deter campaigners who believe their own views are more important than the public’s right to drive on roads, or the protection of private property.”
James Cockle, a spokesman for the group, told NZME Wood told them he did not have the money to fund passenger rail, and it was not on his top 10 list for climate action.
The group sprayed the offices of Finance Minister Grant Robertson and MP Ibrahim Omer, Transport Minister Michael Wood, Associate Finance Minister Megan Woods and Minister for Consumer Affairs David Clark, with bright red paint to signify the “blood on their hands”.
They also targeted the Dunedin office of National MP Michael Woodhouse.
Wood has “absolutely” ruled out meeting with Passenger Rail protesters again after this morning’s protest action.
He told NZME he agrees everyone has the right to protest issues they feel strongly about, and it’s a part of democracy.
“Crossing the line of vandalism, criminal behaviour and widespread public disruption is totally unacceptable. The sad thing about that is it is totally counterproductive.”
He said all the Restore Passenger Rail protesters do is lose public support for the issue rather than help it.
“It’s extremely disappointing to me that this group has carried on with this kind of behaviour.”
“I thought it was appropriate to engage with the group and give them an opportunity to formally engage with the discussion that we’re having with many other groups about this issue.....I said to this group you can be part of this discussion in a constructive way and they clearly declined to do that and carried on down this route.”
Wood says there is work happening towards improving the railways - a select committee inquiry has opened up into the issue of interregional passenger rail, and he is considering a formal proposal from Greater Wellington to improve interregional passenger rail in the north island.
“The other thing I would put to this group is actually do some work, come to us with a sense of priorities - tell us what you think is most important, tell us how much it should cost, talk to us about trade-offs we have to make,”
“This group has done none of that work, they’ve simply taken a position and decided they’re going to cause maximum disruption and not engage constructively.”
The group does not have any intention of stopping its disruption.
“You can expect action to continue until we get action from the Government,” Cockle said.
“Your inaction is leading to death around the world, blood is on your hands.”
Cockle said he is not concerned about being charged with vandalism, saying it would be “an extreme overreach” as everything they have sprayed on the offices is washable. They have even left a note for the cleaners saying the group will come and clean its “statement” later today.
The spray painting is a new tactic from the group which has previously caused traffic chaos across Wellington by blocking major highways in Johnsonville, the Mt Victoria Tunnel and Transmission Gully.