End vaccine mandates - Luxon

By Will Trafford

National is calling for an end to vaccine mandates once Aotearoa is through the peak of the current Omicron outbreak.

Speaking to assembled media leader Christopher Luxon said the rationale for mandates had reduced amid the Omicron outbreak and he attacked the government's policies toward those opposing mandates as "divisive".

“National is strongly pro-vaccination but the public health rationale for mandates is much less than it was just a few months ago. Omicron is just so infectious and busts through vaccination, including boosters,” Luxon said.

"They [mandates] should begin to be removed progressively once we are through the peak of Omicron."

“New Zealanders have done the right thing. We got vaccinated in record numbers. We’re getting boosted. We get tested,” he said.

Luxon spoke to the Wellington protests, saying the mandates were causing division in New Zealand society.

“National is the party of law and order, and we condemn the illegal and antisocial behaviour of those involved in the protest. MPs cannot engage with law-breakers while roads are illegally occupied and death threats hang in the air.

“But we should not ignore the wider frustrations of law-abiding New Zealanders and businesses doing it tough.”

"The Prime Minister talks about the team of five million, but actually she leads the most divisive government in recent memory," he said.

The areas where government mandates should be removed first according to National are for border workers, vaccine pass requirements for children’s sport and vaccine pass requirements for hospitality businesses.

“The government also needs to open up the border right now for Kiwis coming home from anywhere in the world. We should quickly open to tourists and other visa holders too, and we should get rid [of] self-isolation requirements unless someone tests positive when they land.”

“We’ve tolerated being shut off from the rest of the world for two years,” Luxon said.

The move by National comes amid rising tensions between the government and anti-mandate protesters outside Parliament in Pōneke.

Early this morning a police operation saw barricades erected around the protest area, Police said protestors would be allowed to leave, but not return. There were several scuffles and arrests triggered by those opposing the move; Police say urine was sprayed at police and projectiles thrown.

Yesterday Police commissioner Andrew Coster warned force could eventually be "the only option" to remove the protesters, but that it would be a last resort.

In an interview with Stuff, Coster conceded crowds in Wellington increased again Saturday, with more than 1000 people on the lawn outside the Beehive and 750 tents erected in the area.

“This can’t go on forever, very clearly.

“We have a focus on de-escalating and aiming to constrain and reduce the size of the protest and the impact on the city. If we don’t see success with this strategy, then we will have to look to other things," Coster said.

Over the weekend protesters were joined by high-profile New Zealanders including Op Shop frontman Jason Kerrison and America's Cup sailor Sir Russell Coutts.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is resolute in her decision not to meet with protesters or back down on vaccine mandates, telling Radio New Zealand this morning, "The protesters have had their say. It's time they go home”.