'Just stoking the fire' - Waititi tells Speaker to end tactics at parliament protest

By James Perry

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi has joined the calls of other parties for the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard to stop inflaming the situation outside Parliament.

Waititi told Māori TV he didn't support the Speaker's tactics to remove anti-mandate and anti-vaccination protestors who have camped outside Parliament since last Tuesday.

On Friday, Mallard ordered the sprinklers on Parliament grounds to be turned on, despite a heavy rain forecast for that evening, and on Saturday set up loudspeakers from the balcony playing loud music interspersed with Covid-19 vaccination messages.

Waititi says that was just stoking the fire, and called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to rein Mallard in.

"That's not right, I don't support what he's doing. This is just stoking the fire. There's no good outcome. I say to the prime minister to stop this. He's been doing it for a long time, oppressing the stance of others. Let them protest but don't stoke the fire."

Supports mandate removal

Waititi said he understood the demands of the protestors and supported their calls for the removal of Covid-19 mandates.

"We don't support government mandates. We do support mandates in hospitals but other mandates we don't support. In our policy," he said.

However, Waititi added that is where the support for the protest ended.

"People in this protest have different views. Some are against mandates, some are against the vaccine, some are there to hurl abuse at those who've been vaccinated, some are against masks, and some are racists.

"I saw with my own eyes Trump flags flying next to our tino rangatiratanga flags. I don't know where the head and where the tail of this protest is.

"Our protests in the past have had clear kaupapa and leaders."

He said that is one of the main reasons he hasn't yet addressed the protest, or spoken to organisers.

"It's difficult for us to speak to them because we don't know their kaupapa and we don't know who their leader is. Yes, some support it but most of them we don't know what's happening."

Protest update

Te Ao Māori News has asked the Speaker's office for comment. 

Meanwhile, Wellington District Commander, Corrie Parnell said protestors were being urged to move illegally parked vehicles that are blocking roads around Parliament as soon as possible. 

"Many residents, workers, students, motorists and business owners continue to face disruption from the protest. Wellingtonians have the right to move freely and safely around the city, so all roads being clear is a top priority."

Nearby Sky Stadium is opening its carpark this evening to protestors, with Parnell saying those vehicles wouldbe free to come and go from the stadium car park at any time. 

There were no incidents of note at the protest today but Parnell says the number of children present continued to be a real concern to police.