Northland community leaders condemn 'anti-vax' hīkoi

Source: 1News

A gathering of people in Waitangi against Covid vaccination mandates and pandemic restrictions are being condemned by many in Northland. 

Earlier on Wednesday, traffic was held up for several hours at Auckland’s southern border as dozens tried to cross the border to join a hīkoi. 

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

Ngāpuhi were aamong those criticising the gathering, describing it as particularly dangerous to whānau living in Te Tai Tokerau. 

Te Tai Tokerau Border Control spokesperson, Hone Harawira, told the protesters to march to Wellington, rather than come north. 

“A great majority of them are the anti-vax brigade,” he told 1News.

“If that’s the case, if that’s the way they believe it, that’s their business.  

“But, don't come into our territory and try and create a situation where there could be a superspreader event where people go from there to everywhere else in the north and bring that back home.”

Harawira said there was no invitation of the group from Te Tii Marae in Waitangi. 

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

Police said they 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".

Still, several hundred turned up at Waitangi on Wednesday, claiming their freedom was under threat. 

The protest was timed for the anniversary of He Whakaputanga, the declaration of independence. Commemorations were being held at Waitangi on Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, police said they were contemplating enforcement action at Auckland's southern border after two vehicles, a car and a bus, were deliberately parked by protesters to obstruct traffic on SH1.

"The occupants refused repeated requests to move the vehicles throughout the day, claiming to have an exemption to travel through the checkpoint," a police spokesperson said.

"Police have established that two occupants in one vehicle had been granted an exemption for permitted travel across the boundary."

"Occupants of the bus did not have evidence of permitted travel and after lengthy engagement with police, the protesters agreed to move the bus off the highway late this afternoon."