'Time to go home' PM says of protesters at Parliament

Source: 1News

The Prime Minister says anti-mandate protesters occupying Parliament have made their point and it is "time to go home".

The occupation is now into its 14th day, with a standoff playing out between police and protesters early on Monday morning as concrete barriers were brought in in an effort to contain protest activity.

Jacinda Ardern told Breakfast it was everyone's hope the protest ends peacefully. She said its end could be achieved "very quickly and easily" if protesters "simply left".

"They have made their point and it is time to go home.”

The prime minister said her focus was on the growing pandemic and it was not time for New Zealand to pull down its armour, just because protesters were camping on Parliament's front lawn.

READ MORE: Arrests made as concrete barriers erected near Parliament

“My job is to make sure that I’m both at the same time focused on a growing pandemic but also speaking to the future. I’ll do a little bit more of that this afternoon as well, talking about what it looks like once we get through this Omicron wave," Ardern said.

"I do want to be very clear that those messages are for all New Zealanders, not as a result of the activity that is taking place outside on the lawn today.”

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, under pressure on how the occupation at Parliament has been handled, would not be drawn on whether he's confident he will retain his job.

"I’m focused on the job at hand, I think that’s what people would expect me to do, and that’s a matter for others," he told Q+A.

Coster also said police were sticking to its existing de-escalation approach, as the alternative of a forceful pushback could not be justified.

“I think police could clear the protest, but I don’t think the harm that would come from how we would need to do that is acceptable relative to the harm that the protest is doing,” he said.

“The balance we have here is keeping the peace and enforcing the law. The tactics need to be appropriate for the safest outcome.”

The police commissioner said the alternative would involve tear gas and batons being deployed on Parliament’s grounds.

On Breakfast Ardern said: "It is not for the Government to give instructions on what happens. Of course we want it to end though. I think everyone does.”

She said she supports police officers as they "do that hard job, every single day".

"Does that mean I’ll agree with every single decision, not necessarily, but they do have my support."

Asked by John Campbell if she thought police should have gone in earlier, Ardern replied: "I don’t see any value in going through that now because this would be a moot point if people simply hadn’t engaged in illegal activity in the first place, if they hadn’t occupied, if they hadn’t harassed people around Wellington, stopped businesses from operating and people from moving.

"So I don’t think this is an area where it actually should be the primal focus to blame police. The focus should be on those who have caused the situation in the first place.”

“Ultimately this would all be resolved if those who are currently there accept the point has been made and it is time for them to leave," she said.

Ardern later ended the interview with: "In terms of the healing I think the most important thing to acknowledge is that Covid has been hard on everyone … We will get through though if we continue to just display understanding with one another, a bit of perseverance and resilience, and the light will start to get bigger and brighter.”