An anti-vax protest that shut down the centre of Newmarket in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland today may have cost local businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost customers, says the local business association.
Hundreds gathered at 11am at the Auckland Domain before heading to Westfield Newmarket shopping mall via Carlton Gore Road and Broadway.
After gathering outside the mall, they then moved towards Government House in Epsom.
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Newmarket Business Association head Mark Knoff-Thomas said the local stores were “very disappointed” by the behaviour of the protesters.
“We all accept that everyone has got the right to protest, but not when your protest ends up bringing a town centre to a standstill, where retailers and hospitality providers have to shut their doors just to be safe because there’s so many people storming down the street,” he said.
“I think it is shameless behaviour and very, very misguided.”
He said stores had high expectations for the day which had been shattered – the second day of Auckland opening up under red alert under the new traffic lights covid-19 system after almost four months in lockdown.
‘People got fed up’
“This should have been one of the best Saturdays of the year for us and the protesters certainly put paid to that because after they moved through Broadway, everybody left because traffic was snarled up and people got fed up and went home.
“It potentially lost Newmarket many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I hope the protesters never come back to Newmarket ever again. If they want to protest, by all means do it somewhere where it doesn’t impact on business owners because it’s been one of the worst years for business people. Very stressful.
“A lot of people are financially on the ropes and all the protesters have done today is add more stress to those people.”
Earlier, Inspector Beth Houliston of Auckland police said officers were “closely monitoring” the protest activity.
“Our focus remains balancing the safety of all protesters and the public, with the right to peacefully protest.”
Houliston said traffic in the area had been disrupted by the protesters.
“We would like to thank members of the public who have deferred their travel today.
“We also acknowledge those that have been inconvenienced.
“Police will follow-up any incidents of offending or concern identified during the protest activity.”
The protest organisers were calling the rally ‘the Mass Exodus’.
Protest in New Plymouth
Meanwhile, anti-vaccination protesters have again taken to the streets of New Plymouth.
About 200 protesters gathered at Puke Ariki before marching up Devon Street, the city’s main shopping area.
They chanted ‘freedom’ and carried placards calling on the government to end the vaccine mandate.
Many waved flags including campaign banners for former US president Donald Trump and the tino rangatiratanga or Māori flag, and the United Tribes of NZ flag.
Some of Auckland’s strict lockdown rules were eased yesterday, as the country moved to the new traffic light Covid-19 protection framework.
Police say fewer people converged on central Auckland last night compared to pre-covid-19 times.
But officers were kept busy dealing with disorder-related incidents, involving highly intoxicated people.
In one case, a person is in a serious condition after being assaulted on Karangahape Road.
A 22-year-old man has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
He was due to appear in the Auckland District Court today.
98 new community cases
The Ministry of Health reported 98 new community cases of covid-19 in New Zealand today, with cases in Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson Tasman and Canterbury.
In a statement, the ministry said there were 73 cases in hospital, including seven people in intensive care.
Today’s cases include three in Northland, 64 in Auckland, 21 in Waikato, six in the Bay of Plenty, one in Mangakino, two in Hawke’s Bay and one in Nelson Marlborough.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.