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Covid-19: Anti-lockdown protesters take to roads for latest action against restrictions

Convoys of cars have taken to Auckland and Wellington highways, while crowds have gathered on foot in Christchurch in the latest stage of polarising protests against Covid-19 restrictions.

The Freedoms & Rights Coalition, founded by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, threatened to gridlock traffic in all main centres on Saturday if its demands to drop Covid restrictions by Friday were not met.

The Government did not accede to the controversial coalition’s demands and on Friday evening its social media channels announced the action would go ahead.

Traffic was close to a standstill on Jervois Quay,Wellington, as The Freedoms & Rights Coalition protest took place across the country on Saturday.

KEVIN STENT

Traffic was close to a standstill on Jervois Quay,Wellington, as The Freedoms & Rights Coalition protest took place across the country on Saturday.

Vehicular protests are taking place in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Wellington and Whangārei, while protesters are marching in Christchurch.

READ MORE:
* Police officers had to isolate after contact with Destiny Church member with Covid-19
* Covid-19: Parliamentary protest of those who feel unheard will just be ignored
* Protesters threaten ‘gridlock’ in all main cities if mandates not dropped

By 11.30am dozens of cars with flashing hazards, some flying New Zealand flags out windows, slowed traffic as they passed through Auckland’s State Highway 1 at Newmarket heading south

Contrary to organisers’ instructions to drive at about 50kmh, a convoy of dozens of cars across all lanes drove northbound at a lagging 20kmh pace through Newmarket on State Highway 1 heading north, impeding the flow of traffic.

Groups of protesters lead a traffic-led protest up the motorway to Auckland's Newmarket with the aim of bringing the city to a halt, in opposition to Covid-19 restrictions.

Jason Dorday/Stuff

Groups of protesters lead a traffic-led protest up the motorway to Auckland’s Newmarket with the aim of bringing the city to a halt, in opposition to Covid-19 restrictions.

A large group of slow travelling vehicles also passed through the Waterview Tunnel travelling towards the city on the southwestern motorway, led by a ute with a huge sign that read “Let freedom reign”.

The Auckland edition plans to travel in a “slow moving loop” around the central city. Motorists driving too slowly and/or blocking traffic can be fined $150 and receive 20 demerit points.

The loop covers a distance of 50.2km. Based on an approximate fuel efficiency or 8L/100 km for a hatchback travelling at city driving speeds, and using the $2.60/L for 91 Octane, each loop will cost $10.44 and take about an hour.

Traffic was slow passing  Auckland's Pt Chev heading south in Auckland as anti-lockdown protesters in their cars drove slowly around the city.

Lawrence Smith/Stuff

Traffic was slow passing Auckland’s Pt Chev heading south in Auckland as anti-lockdown protesters in their cars drove slowly around the city.

By midday the size of the Auckland anti-lockdown protest had grown, with a significantly larger group on the counter-clockwise loop.

George Block/Stuff

By midday the size of the Auckland anti-lockdown protest had grown, with a significantly larger group on the counter-clockwise loop.

Using an emissions factor of approximately 180g CO2/km for a petrol Toyota Corolla, each loop represents 9kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

In Wellington, the protesters are split into several groups, each doing laps of the central city.

Areas affected include around the Basin Reserve, Vivian St, Customhouse Quay and Jervois Quay.

Traffic was close to a standstill on Jervois Quay in Wellington.

KEVIN STENT

Traffic was close to a standstill on Jervois Quay in Wellington.

Earlier, at a morning briefing, organiser Heker Robertson addressed the 50-strong crowd and said the protesters were aiming to move “in unity” to have an impact.

This is a step in a “bigger ongoing strategy” to take this nation back, he said.

A crowd of protesters against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions gathers in Christchurch.

Garlie Gates/Stuff

A crowd of protesters against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions gathers in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, crowds gathered on foot in Christchurch, with protesters singing the national anthem and carrying out a minute silence for the four lives lost in a crash in Kāpiti earlier this week.

Protesters marched from Cranmer Sq through the central city, chanting “freedom”.

Former nursing student and protestor Susan Nankivell said she’d had to give up applying for nursing jobs due to not being vaccinated, including a position she was interviewing for a Hillmorton Hospital.

“I know students who’ve been kicked out of their courses, and I can’t get to my son’s wedding because the venue is mandated.” she said.

Anti-lockdown protesters march down Cambridge Tce in Christchurch.

Charlie Gates/Stuff

Anti-lockdown protesters march down Cambridge Tce in Christchurch.

Further north, in Nelson, residents bore witness to the movement driving in a loop, car lights on and horns honking, via a route that checked off Rutherford St, Waimea Rd, and State Highway 6.

The protesters say they have four demands for the Government: to remove vaccination mandates immediately, revoke the traffic light system, lift the Auckland borders and move New Zealand to level one.

A police spokeswoman said in a statement they were aware of the protest “and will continue to monitor activity”.

“Police officers will maintain a presence and will respond to events as appropriate at the time.

“As with previous large gatherings, police may follow up on any identified offences or breaches at a later time.”

Posts on social media suggest the Dunedin leg of the protests will take place on foot, with a march to the Octagon in the central city.

The coalition was responsible for several large scale gatherings at the Auckland Domain. Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki is facing charges for allegedly organising the gatherings.

Destiny member Paul Thompson, who recently tested positive for Covid, is also facing charges in relation to the gathering.

Stuff

Roxie Mohebbi leads a discussion about the Covid-19 vaccine with immunologist Dr Maia Brewerton and GP Dr Api Talemaitoga as part of Stuff’s Whole Truth project.



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