Nationwide protests planned; hikoi for Harbour Bridge

By Will Trafford

Coordinated nationwide protests are being planned in opposition to vaccine mandates including a hikoi across the Auckland Harbour Bridge this Saturday.

The Freedom and Rights Coalition led by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki said on Facebook this morning that as part of a national campaign to "March Out Mandates" - they intend to gather at the North Shore Domain and walk over the bridge.

The group is promoting additional activities in Napier, Nelson, Tauranga and Christchurch.

The announcement comes on the 17th day of the Parliament protests; last night a skirmish broke out with police as protestors removed a bollard that had been in place to prevent more cars parking on streets and sidewalks surrounding Parliament.

Police had told the protestors free parking at Sky Stadium would end today and they would need to leave; the protestors say they managed to get 30 vehicles back into the protest site before police reestablished the roadblock.

Day 17 of the anti-mandate protests in Pōneke / NZME

Tamaki in a Facebook live stream reiterated his calls to end vaccine mandates by March 1. He said protestors would make "a statement at significant landmarks" across New Zealand, touting them as "peaceful, family-friendly" events.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt visited the protest site on Wednesday, meeting organisers. He said talks were "constructive" but the situation was likely to take several weeks to resolve.

"There's a lot of listening that needs to be done and at the moment people are hurting, they're worried, they're angry, they're confused," Hunt told NZME.

"When a relationship is under strain you have to listen and talk and that's what we're beginning to do."

Several politicians past and present including former deputy prime minister Winston Peters and ACT leader David Seymour have met protesters this week; on Tuesday National called for a roadmap and eventual end to vaccine mandates.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has maintained her stance the government will not be removing restrictions until well after the peak of the Omicron outbreak.