Picton protesters refusing to move on despite trespass notice

Source: 1News

Anti-mandate protesters in Picton are refusing to move on despite being handed a trespass notice on Thursday.

The notice from Marlborough District Council, seen by 1News, says that as of Thursday February 17, the council, as the owner of the Nelson Square Reserve where the protest is being held, has withdrawn its consent for those to enter the property.

It comes after a threat of legal action from Marlborough Mayor John Leggett on Wednesday, who said in a Facebook post that the community has "displayed an admirable level of tolerance towards the protest".

Locals have made complaints about the noise being made by protesters at the site.

Picton anti-mandate protest.

Thursday's trespass notice to protesters reads: "You are required to leave within 24 hours and stay off Nelson Square Reserve for six months after this warning has been issued.

"Any person occupying Nelson Square Reserve after 10am on Friday 18 February 2022, will be considered a trespasser and the police may be called."

The notice, issued at 9.30am, says anyone who doesn't follow the order may be charged with an offence under the Trespass Act 1980. They may be liable on a conviction to a fine up to $1000 or three months in prison.

The council added that it may also charge and fine people in breach of the notice under the Reserves and Other Public Places Bylaw 2017 and the Reserves Act 1977.

"Our approach has been conciliatory from day one, we set out to get alongside some of the representatives of these occupiers," Leggett told 1News on Thursday.

"We offered them what we considered to be a very reasonable alternative which meant that they would be vacating Nelson Square and relocating to another council reserve (Waitohi Domain).

"That second reserve was out of the residential area of Picton and it would have given them a base to be able to carry out their day time activities."

However, Leggett said it became clear on Wednesday afternoon that protesters were not leaving.

"When 5pm came the agreement that we reached, in good faith I might add, was breached on their part so we have to move to the next stage.

"They are unlawfully occupying Nelson Square, they are aware of that, they've acknowledged that.

"It was hugely disappointing from our point of view, we wanted to go down a conciliatory path."

However, one protester told 1News she was in it for the long-haul despite the trespass notice.

The woman, whose son lost his job because he refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine, said that the mandate was "insanity".

She described herself as anti-mandate, not anti-vaccine.

"There's a great division being caused and it's terrible, like, never before have we been divided.

"This is New Zealand, we're supposed to be a peace-keeping nation number one and we're supposed to be kind," she said.

When asked what she thought of bad behaviour seen from some protesters outside Parliament in Wellington, the woman said she hadn't seen any.

Protesters are continuing to occupy the grass reserve outside Parliament for the tenth day now.

Leggett said, "the Wellington situation would be a big indicator of when we can resolve things locally".

"Our local community have been extremely patient around their occupation but there does come a time when they're entitled to see Nelson Square return to the local community and to visitors as a reserve."

Police are taking a lead in future enforcement actions, Leggett said.