Hīkoi headed for Waitangi stopped at Auckland's south border

Source: 1News

Dozens of cars arrived at Auckland's southern border early Wednesday morning as part of a protest against vaccination mandates and travel restrictions.

The hīkoi, organised by self-proclaimed movement the Sovereign Hīkoi of Truth [SHOT], started in Rotorua on Tuesday evening and protesters planned to make their way from there through to Auckland and then on to Waitangi to "assert their rights" against the government.

The group said in a statement on Monday the SHOT movement was formed to "bring to light the truth" with the hīkoi being their "starting point".

"This hīkoi is to be a starting point and a declaration that we choose to assert our rights and to herald a new way of being, we do not have to live under authoritarian government law, we maintain what has already been gifted to us under divine natural law to live as free people on the land."

Police said in a statement on Wednesday morning a convoy of "around 50 vehicles and approximately 100 people" arrived at the southern checkpoint border shortly before midnight and were directed to a gravel area on Orams Rd as to not block the road and disrupt traffic.

"Most of the protesters complied however two protest vehicles, including a bus, were parked on SH1 in the northern lanes with the drivers refusing to move them," a police spokesperson said.

"Traffic has been diverted around these vehicles overnight and police are currently engaging with the owners of these vehicles, which are currently occupied, to remove these off the road.

"The group of protesters remain parked up to the side of the road near the Southern checkpoints and police continue to monitor the situation for the safety of everyone involved."

Police added approximately 50 protesters arrived at the Northern border Wednesday morning from the northern side of the checkpoint along with about a dozen from the southern side.

"Police engaged with this group, supported by our Iwi Liaison officers and our partners from Ngāti Whātua at the checkpoint.

"The majority of this group have subsequently left the checkpoint area without issue."

On Wednesday afternoon, police said they were also monitoring a hīkoi that had been travelling from Kensington Park in Whangārei to Waitangi, with the idea of meeting up with those who had travelled from Rotorua.

"Police have additional staff deployed, including our Iwi Liaison Officers, to both monitor the hīkoi travelling north as well as additional staff in Waitangi," a police spokesperson said.

"Our focus is to ensure the current restrictions set out in the Health Order are adhered to by those involved as well as working to support our iwi partners in Northland."

Police were working with the leadership of Te Tii Marae, "who have indicated that the protesters are not welcome this year due to the risk posed by the Delta strain of Covid-19".

"While police recognise the public's right to protest, we must ensure the safety of all people involved as well as ensuring the current Covid-19 restrictions in place are followed," the spokesperson said.

In a statement to 1News on Tuesday evening, a police spokesperson said police were aware of a planned hīkoi intending to travel from Rotorua to Northland early on Wednesday.

"Police have been planning around this hīkoi and we are monitoring the situation. As a result, there will be an increased policing presence at the Auckland boundary," the spokesperson said.

"Those who are found to be deliberately breaching alert level restrictions can expect to face enforcement action.

"Anyone found to have unlawfully crossed the Auckland boundary may also face difficulties in returning to their place of residence given the restrictions in place.

"These boundaries are in place to help stop the spread of Covid-19 given the increased risk that the Delta variant poses to our communities."

Protestors are met by police at Auckland's southern boundary.

The spokesperson added police were working closely with iwi partners in Tāmaki Makaurau and Northland on the situation.

"Police and iwi are coming to this kaupapa from the same place and we remind those intending on taking part in this hīkoi that crossing the boundary cannot happen until such time as Covid-19 restrictions allow for this.

"Police are incredibly disappointed that this group of protesters have chosen to take this action.

"By carrying out non-essential travel they are putting themselves, our staff and the wider community at risk, while additional police resources have had to be redeployed in order to monitor the movements of this group at the checkpoints."

Former MP Hone Harawira, the spokesperson for border control in Northland, also warned the protesters their hīkoi was not welcome at Waitangi.

"This hīkoi is a scam and is run by pākehā anti-vaxxers," Harawira said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

"There is no invitation from Waitangi Marae and no invitation from the Waitangi treaty grounds.

"With the Covid outbreak in Auckland, there is no invitation extended to unvaccinated outsiders and if you wish to criticise the Government's vaccination scheme, then you should march to Wellington and Parliament."